Chemistry Research - Learning All the Techniques: Video Transcript

Chris Makaroff [Dean of the College of Arts and Science; Professor of Chemistry]: I came to Miami because it had a graduate program in chemistry, so my background is in biochemistry. Miami places an emphasis on undergraduate education first, but it's got the infrastructure here to do scholarship and to do research.

Cameron Williams [Biochemistry major]: I had a high school teacher that was really influential. We learned about biochemistry in his class, and I participated in the Science Olympiad. I found Dr. Page's lab, and he did a lot of biochem research, particularly with proteins.

Katherine Makaroff [Biochemistry major and Premedical Studies co-major]: In high school I really liked chemistry; it was one of my favorite courses. I just found it really interesting the way that it kind of all connects with the human body.

Cameron Williams: The main goal of this research project is to develop drugs that will deactivate metallo beta lactamases. They're proteins that bacteria produce, and those proteins break down antibiotics. So what we're looking to do is develop drugs that target those proteins and deactivate them.

Katherine Makaroff: We're adding polymers onto proteins to see how we can stabilize them with different polymers. The main goal is to eventually add the polymers to cellulase, which breaks down cellulose into glucose, which is then used for biofuels.

Rick Page [Assistant Professor of Chemistry]: Current biofuels are made by taking sugars from things like corn and other crops, taking the part that you would eat of the corn, and using those sugars and feeding those to the yeast.

Katherine Makaroff: The end goal is to get a more stable cellulase, which can then be used for mass production in the industry, and hopefully bring down that cost of producing the biofuels.

Assistant Professor Rick Page: Trying to take the cellulose, corn stocks, grasses, wood chips, discarded cellulose that we typically would not use, take that, and repurpose that, and actually turn that into biofuels that you can put in your car.

Dean Chris Makaroff: By working with a faculty member, the student then typically takes on a project related to that faculty member's research and scholarship.

Cameron Williams: In a classroom, you learn very cut-and-dry procedures for solving problems. But in research, it forces you to think more in-depth.

Dean Chris Makaroff: It's that ability to develop a hypothesis, to see what the problem is, and then design experiments to test that hypothesis, collect data, and then analyze that data to see how it relates to the problem we are trying to solve.

Katherine Makaroff: Today I am going to be running an activity assay to access the activity of the cellulase that we've grown up, and added the polymers to, and then I'll use our plate reader to access the various levels of activity of each sample.

Assistant Professor Rick Page: We're going to determine whether or not it's active. We've made some modifications to it; we've changed it in some way. Has that made it better, has that made it worse, or is the activity remaining the same?

Cameron Williams: Working in Dr. Page's lab has forced me to learn the skills that someone wouldn't learn until they get into graduate school.

Katherine Makaroff: I've been trained on a lot of different instruments that a lot of undergrads don't get to see, and you see usually more in the graduate level. We have a lot of nice equipment that once you're trained on you really get to just kind of go for it and use it on your own.

Dean Chris Makaroff: They learn all the techniques, they're able to go off and go to medical school, they can go to graduate school. But again, they can do just about anything.

Cameron Williams: I'm being offered a position at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. I'll be working at the advanced light source synchrotron, which is basically a particle accelerator, and we’ll be doing x-ray crystallography.

Katherine Makaroff: I'm going to be attending the University of Cincinnati Medical School, where I'll get my MD degree.

Cameron Williams: I wouldn't have been offered that position without doing research with Dr. Page.

[April 2016]