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James Bellush '12
2011-2012 Honors Student

Name:  James Bellush ’12
Honors in: Biochemistry
Hometown: Branchville, NJ
Major/minor: biology/ religion

Title of project: Identifying DNA Sequence Binding Preferences of Novel Antitumor-active Dirhodium Compound

Project advisor: Drs. Shari and Steve Dunham

Abstract or brief description: The efficacy of metal-based chemotherapeutic drugs is derived from their ability to cause toxic lesions to DNA of rapidly dividing cancer cells. My project seeks to characterize the preferred binding site(s) of a novel, antitumor-active dirhodium compound on a genomic size fragment of DNA. By using biochemical and molecular methods, we hope to determine the sequence preference of this dirhodium compound as a way to characterize its potential therapeutic utility.

How did you get interested in your topic? I have a keen interest in taking a biochemical approach to understand basic cellular processes, especially in the context of disease. This project allowed me to explore the DNA binding capabilities of compounds that effectively interfere with the ability of cancer cells to continue to proliferate and also allowed me to consider other potential therapeutic approaches as well.

Do you intend to research your topic further? If so, how? If I did revisit this topic in future research, I would like to approach it by examining the cellular response to DNA damage. Multiple signaling pathways are activated in response to DNA damage to maintain genomic integrity and the cell’s capacity to proliferate. Possibly understanding these mechanisms will shed light on some tumor cells’ ability to resist chemotherapy.

How did you benefit academically by conducting research/participating in honors? The experience of conducting independent research, developing my critical thinking skills, and applying classroom knowledge within a research setting has definitely prepared me for future endeavors.

How has the department (or faculty advisor) prepared you for the future? Although I am a biology major, the opportunity to study my project from a biochemistry perspective allowed me to develop my critical thinking skills from an alternate perspective and has encouraged me to pursue more biochemistry research opportunities in graduate school.

What advice do you have for other students interested in Honors? Although it is a difficult process, that challenge will provide you the tools to succeed in whatever path you choose in the future.

My future plans: I plan on going to graduate school to enter a Ph.D. program to study Cell and Molecular Biology.