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Rebecca Britt Armenta

Major: Chemistry
Minor: Biology
Status: Senior will graduate May 2011
Mentor: Dr. Jorge Gardea-Torresdey

Research Project:

The aim of my research was to determine the possible toxic effects of ZnO nanoparticles in Mexican Palo Verde (MPV, Parkinsonia aculeata).

My name is Kristina Barron I am a senior Biology major. I currently work with Dr. Kristine Garza in the Biological Sciences department. My research focuses on the effects of nanocarbon particles on murine pulmonary macrophages and their ability to respond to infection after exposure. I recently presented my research at the annual Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science conference and won a Best Poster Presentation Award for my work.

Acute Exposure of Pulmonary Macrophages to Black Carbon Nanoparticles Induces Inflammation and Cell Death

Kristina Barron, Raquel Suro-Maldonado, and Dr. Kristine Garza University of Texas at El Paso, Department of Biological Sciences

Mass production of nanoparticles and nanostructures has created enormous potential for commercial and scientific applications. Concern for the toxicity of novel nanomaterials however has also increased. Macrophages (MF) are immune cells that function as a first line of defense against invading pathogens and are likely to be among the first cells affected by nanomaterial. Two distinct nanomaterials, multi-walled carbon nanotube aggregates (MWCNTs) and black carbon containing spherule and branched aggregates (BC), were tested for their effects on murine pulmonary MF. They were evaluated for their ability to directly activate resting MF and for their ability to prevent activation of MF by an external stimulus following exposure to the materials. Cell viability, production of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFa), up-regulation of cell surface markers, production of Nitric Oxide (NO) were examined following a 48hr (acute) exposure. Alternatively, the same parameters were assessed after a 24hr pre-exposure (acute pre-exposure) to the particles followed by a 24 hr incubation time with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or Zymosan. Acute exposure of resting MF to MWCNTs had little to no effect on cell viability and NO production; BC however, was severely cytotoxic but did not activate the MF. Acute pre-exposure to MWCNTs was somewhat cytotoxic but did not prevent the cells from responding to bacterial stimuli; BC was extremely cytotoxic and prevented LPS-induced activation. Thus, pre-exposure and exposure to BC, but not MWCNTs, causes changes to MF function. The data also suggests that exposure to nanomaterials with fullerene structure in particular may ultimately interfere with effective pulmonary immunity.

Future Work:
Assess multiple murine inflammation cytokines (IL-6, IL-10, MCP-1, IFN?, TNF, and IL-12p70) Evaluate response to activation of other toll-like receptor ligands. Examine T cell-macrophage interaction. Perform in vivo carbon nanoparticle studies in order to appropriately classify carbon nanomaterial as toxic or catalyst in pulmonary, or associated, diseases.

Elizabeth Calzada

I am a senior majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry. I am currently working in Dr. Rosa Maldonado's lab where our research interests involve drug discovery and vaccine development for Leishmaniasis and Chagas' Disease. My research project entails evaluating the effects of small molecule inhibitors of the leishmanial methionine aminopeptidase 1 enzyme by high content imaging as well as evaluating the inhibitors' target specificity.

David Carbajal

Rasalin D. Cooper

Nadia Herrera

I am a senior with a major in Microbiology and Biochemistry. Currently I work with Dr. Ricardo Bernal's structural biochemistry laboratory in the chemistry department. My research consists of utilizing x-ray crystallography and biochemical assays to characterize a lysozyme encoded by Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteriophage SN. P. aeruginosa is an opportunistic human pathogen that devastates cystic fibrosis and immuno-compromised patients and it is broadly resistant to many common antibiotics. Ultimately the goal of my research is to learn more about bacteriophage SN in order to apply this knowledge to better-understand how bacteriophage SN and other bacteriophages could be used as treatment alternatives to bacterial infections that are difficult to treat such as P. aeruginosa.

Jonathan Aaron Jackson

Erika Monroy Biology & Chemistry

Principle Investigator: Dr. Katja Michael, Department of Chemistry

Topic: Synthesis of a-Galactose and a-Rhamnose containing saccharide epitopes related to Trypanosoma cruzi

Research Synopsis: The protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi is the causative agent of Chagas disease. It is known that certain developmental stages of T.cruzi express cell surface oligosaccharides with terminal a-galactosyl and rhamnosyl residues, which are believed to be highly immunogenic in humans. The exact structures and sizes of these epitopes are still unknown. Our quest is to shine light on the chemical structures of immunogenic alpha-Gal and alpha-Rha containing epitopes through a combination of chemical synthesis and ELISA studies involving Chagasic antibodies.

Student: Karen Olivares

Mentor: Cheryl Storer

P.I: Dr. Marc B. Cox

Title: "Characterization of Promoter Specific Effects Displayed by FKBP52 and Beta-Catenin in the Regulation of AR function."

Description: The goal of some of the proposed research in Dr. Cox's lab is to examine the effects of two major coactivators of the Androgen Receptor (AR) signaling pathway. To date, FKBP52 and B-Catenin have always been studied separately, but have never been examined for potential interaction in signaling cascades.

Beta-Catenin is a 92 kDA protein which is a well characterized member of several pathways, from signal transduction to cellular adhesion. Beta-Catenin's involvement in the Wnt signaling pathway is important for understanding the development of prostate cancer.

Wnt signaling involving B-Catenin is implicated in two main areas of AR regulation. Increased transcription by AR has been implicated by several prostate cancer studies.

The other coactivator of the Androgen Receptor (AR) signaling pathway is FK506 binding protein 52 (FKBP52). It is an immunophilin that potentiates AR activity.To gain better understanding of the potential roles of B-Catenin and FKBP52 in regulation of AR, an appreciation of the key components in the AR complex is required.

Future work: test different promoters which are required in order for the transcription to take place. Promoters contain specific DNA sequences and response elements which provide a secure initial binding site for RNA polymerase and for transcription factors.

Joshua Ortiz

Laura F. Porras

Verenice Ramirez

Major: Chemistry
Minor: Biology
P.I/ Mentor: Jose E. Nunez

Project: The group is interested in simple machines such as gyroscopes and gears in the nanoscopic level that have free rotation in the solid state for application use. The group is proposing to produce new pyridyl ligands to use for the synthesis of nanoscopic molecular machines. As a model structure, we are working on the coordination of tungsten hexacarbonyl to N,N-dyphenyl pyridineanime creating a gyroscopic molecule where the ligand acts as the frame and the carbonyl groups on the tungsten behave as a rotor. Other ligands with di-, and tri- pyridine rings are being synthesized to then use for the production of two and three rotors in one molecule for a geared system. The same complexes will synthesized using other metals such as chromium hexacarbonyl.

Enrique Ramirez Senior Physics and Mathematics
UTEP Society of Physics Students President
Mentor: Dr. Jorge A. Lopez

Poster Presentations:
"Mass constraints on fourth generation of standard model fermions" at Annual Fall Meeting of the Nuclear Division of the American Physical Society at Santa Fe, New Mexico 2010 "Effects of fluctuations and inhomogeneities on jet quenching in high energy nuclear collisions" at Third joint meeting of the Nuclear Divisions of the American Physical Society and the Physical Society of Japan at Waikoloa, Hawaii 2009

R. Rodriguez, R. Fries, E. Ramirez. Event-by-event jet quenching. Physics Letters B (2010), doi:10.1016/j.physletb2010.08.023

Diana A. Tafoya

I am currently a junior working towards a B.S. in Chemistry, with an interest in biochemistry. I work under the direction of Dr. Bernal in a structural biology laboratory. My research focuses on the enzymatic characterization of an endolysin mediated chaperonin in bacteriophage phi-EL. Bacteriophage phi-EL is a virus that specifically attacks the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The objective of this research is to characterize the lytic activity of the EL- endolysin and work towards crystallization and X-ray diffraction of those crystals. In the future I plan to pursue a Ph.D. and pursue a career in research.

Jose M. Veleta

P.I.: Dr. Juan C. Noveron

Title: Cu-nitroxide micelles: synthesis, self-assembly and implications in Alzheimer progression

Overview: This project consists in the design a synthesis of Cu(II) lipid complexes that emulsify in water and react with NO to form Cu-nitric oxide micelles. Since nitric oxide (NO) is a cell messenger found in significant concentrations in the brain, the reactions between Cu(II) and NO within lipid environments may have implications to the toxicity of copper in the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer. The purpose of all this is to investigate the reactions of such Cu-nitric oxide micelles with NO-capturing molecules and proteins that are found within cellular compartments.

Alejandra Villescas