DATE: August 2020
Colgate University | Dept. of Chemistry
Jacob Goldberg, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
The syringes will be used in both biochemistry teaching and research laboratories. As described in the course/project description, the Chemistry 385 laboratory course, which typically enrolls about eight students per semester, is designed to give students broad exposure to modern biophysical chemistry methods. As part of this course, students are taught to use Hamilton syringes to prepare a variety of solutions of the protein cytochrome c with precise concentrations for spectroscopic studies (equilibrium folding/unfolding experiments). The success of these experiments is predicated on the ability to repeatedly dispense exact volumes of a protein stock solution. In my experience, when used properly, Hamilton gastight syringes give much more reliable results than single channel pipettes for the low microliter volumes these experiments require.
The goal of the Biophysical Methods course (Chemistry 385) is to provide students with an intensive, hands-on introduction to the modern biochemistry research laboratory. Experiments are designed to allow for the thorough characterization of the iron-containing protein cytochrome c using techniques such as absorbance, fluorescence, and infrared spectroscopy. Using these and other tools, students study the thermodynamics of protein folding and unfolding, the loss of global and local protein structure in denaturing conditions, the acidity of non-native ligands, and the redox properties of the metal ion cofactor. Taken together, these projects constitute a broad, but rigorous, introduction to protein biophysics.
Separately, my research group, which is composed entirely of undergraduate students, develops chemical tools to study complex biological systems. In particular, we are interested in synthesizing probes to detect and intercept transition metal ions in the brain that modulate synaptic neurotransmission. Some of these ions, such as zinc(II), are thought to play a variety of physiological roles in sensory perception and memory formation, while at the same time having been implicated in numerous pathological conditions including schizophrenia, cerebral ischemia, and cognitive neurodegeneration. We work closely with neuroscientists to prepare molecular probes that are custom tailored to a specific application. For example, we have designed a fluorescent sensor to image synaptically released zinc(II) ions with high spatial resolution in the dorsal cochlear nucleus. Undergraduates work in the laboratory for course credit (Chemistry 481/2) or as paid research assistants.
As a primarily undergraduate institution, Colgate University strives to offer its diverse and talented student population high-level research experiences comparable to those available at major research institutions. However, unlike these major research programs, undergraduates at Colgate are trained in the laboratory directly by faculty supervisors and not by graduate students or postdocs. A heavy emphasis is given to one-on-one instruction of how to use laboratory equipment correctly and safely. Our students benefit from this close interaction with faculty members and have a strong record as co-authors on peer-reviewed publications and sustained professional success after graduation in chemistry and biochemistry graduate programs, medical school, and industry.
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