November 1, 2007

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

Chemistry Major Wins Top Honor at Conference

VALDOSTA - A Valdosta State University chemistry student won top honors at the Southeast Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society held Oct. 24-27 at the Hyatt Convention Center in Greenville, S.C.

Caley Allen, a senior chemistry major, won second place out of 200 entries for her presentation, “Chemistry in a Nanodrop.” Her research illustrated a key protein, chignolin, may be bent in a predictable manner using a super computer. Many diseases, such as Alzheimer’s are associated with the shape of key proteins. The ability to change the configuration of proteins may result in colossal advancements in understanding and possibly manipulating the progression of many diseases.

“Being able to fold or unfold a protein in a predictable fashion is one of the holy grails of science,” said Dr. Thomas Manning, a professor of analytical and physical chemistry at VSU. “There is no concept or method to fold and unfold a protein in a predictable fashion, but most of the functions in your body are directly related to the configuration of proteins.”

Allen was one of more than 20 senior chemistry majors whose original research presentations were accepted to the professional conference. Manning said students spent the past six months to a number of years conducing studies and preparing research documents to display and translate for judges and conference attendants.

“Going through this process, students gain valuable experience that will prepare them for future jobs,” Manning said. “Every professional must give presentations, and companies are looking for applicants with ‘outside the classroom experiences,’ such as presenting at a professional conference.”

Om Patel, Giso Abadi, Justin Smith and Greg Kean delivered a presentation, “Pharmaceutical Aquaculture: Growing Drugs in the Gulf of Mexico,” which summarized results from an ongoing project in which cancer drugs are being grown in bacteria farms in the Gulf of Mexico and its tributaries. These bacteria farms are being tested as a cheaper source of cancer-fighting drugs such as bryostatin, ET743 and taxol.

The group worked on the project for nearly three years; and Justin Smith, a senior chemistry major involved with the project, continued to enter calculations during his roughly 13-month military stint in Baghdad, Iraq.

Jason Lackey presented “A Nanoparticle Based Combustion Engine: Theory and Experiment,” which outlined the process of using nanoparticles of charcoal produced from timber in an environmentally friendly combustion engine.

Landon Lasseter and Sofia Ullah presented “Developing a Chemistry Textbook with Instituto Superior de Tecnolog" as y Ciencias Aplicadas (InSTEC), (Havana, Cuba)." The display summarized the group’s experience developing, writing and submitting a 240-page computational chemistry text to an American publisher. The authors include VSU and Cuban faculty members as well as a dozen VSU and Cuban students.

The following chemistry students also presented papers at the conference: Michael Corbitt, William Wilbanks, Robert Cummings, Rajiv Villait, Ronnie Ware, Sabrina Robinson, Mia Gathers, Jana Steed, Travis Ireland, Tora Peters, Kylah Smith, Amber Smith, Pavielle Lockhartand and Bill Hoover.