Debra Evans
Deb Evans2008-2009 Honors Student

Name: Debra Evans (student)
Honors in: Chemistry
Hometown: Bethlehem, PA (Northampton High School)
Major(s): Biochemistry, Spanish (Minor)

Title of project: DNA Adduct Characterization for an Antitumor Active Dirhodium Compound

Abstract or brief description: Sometimes called the “penicillin of cancer drugs,” the platinum-containing compound cisplatin has been a widely-used antitumor drug in the U.S. since 1978. Cisplatin antitumor properties are attributed to binding of the platinum to double-stranded DNA. Dinuclear rhodium compounds have also been shown to covalently bind double-stranded DNA and exhibit antitumor properties. Our lab has examined the DNA-binding kinetics of several of these dirhodium compounds. For one of the compounds studied, termed “Rh4,” only ~30 % was observed to bind to DNA and it was later shown that Rh4 is in fact a mixture of at least three synthesis products that can be separated by C18-HPLC. Only one of these components exhibits significant binding to double-stranded DNA. Structural identification of this component as well as MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry results of its reaction in vitro with both salmon testes DNA and DNA nucleotides will be presented.

How did you get interested in your topic? I have been interested in DNA for a long time and I was excited to find out Dr. Shari and Dr. Stephen Dunham have an ongoing project studying the interaction of anti-tumor compounds with DNA. I had the opportunity to start working in the Dunham lab through Moravian's SOAR program beginning the summer after my freshman year. That was a very positive experience and I knew I wanted to continue working with the Dunhams in this area for my honors research.

Do you intend to research your topic further, if so, how? I plan to continue my studies as a Ph.D. student at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Because Mayo's program is organized with intitial lab rotations, I don't yet know the specific medical area I will choose for my Ph.D. work, but I know the skills and techniques I learned in the Dunham lab will provide a strong foundation for all the future projects I take on. 

How did you benefit academically by conducting research/participating in honors? After going through the graduate school application process (and talking with graduate school admissions personnel during my interviews), I found out that most schools would not even consider students if they had not conducted research as an undergraduate. Besides giving me a great opportunity to hone my laboratory skills, I attribute my honors project to helping me get accepted into some of the country's top Ph.D. programs in biochemistry/molecular genetics.

How has the department (or faculty advisor) in which you studied prepared you for the future? By introducing me to research right after my freshman year, Moravian's chemistry department gave me a definite advantage in applying to summer research programs. Having that experience then helped me get accepted as a summer undergraduate research fellow at the Mayo Clinic (summer 2008) and I now plan to return to Mayo for graduate school this year.

What advice do you have for other students interested in honors? Go for it! Honors is a lot of work, but it is definitely worth the effort if you are willing to put in the time. From gaining one-on-one contact with faculty specialized in your field of interest, to receiving a competitive advantage to get into graduate school, you will definitely benefit.