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Moravian College

Jonathan Nadraws '17

"Optimizing cyclization of LamD derivatives in preparation for bioassays of Lactobacillus plant arum"

Major/Minor:Chemistry Major
Hometown: Allentown
Advisor: Dr. Michael Bertucci

Tell us about your Research:

Quorum sensing (QS) is a form of communication bacteria use to coordinate group behavior. Bacteria synthesize unique chemical signaling molecules which they release into their environment, allowing them to communicate colony density to other members of their species. The focus of my work was on optimizing the efficiency of this reaction to get high yields, in order to prepare for the next phase of research, where we test LamD and chemical derivatives of LamD in colonies of L. plantarum to see if we can up-regulate, or enhance the beneficial effects of L. plantarum.

How did it materialize?

My mentor, who was my Professor of Organic Chemistry at the time, approached me about becoming a member of the project. After learning more about it from other researchers, I quickly signed on and became a member of the Bertucci lab.

What was the best part about working with your faculty advisor? What valuable insights did they bring to the research process?

As a chemistry professional with many years of experience in quorum sensing and peptide research, my faculty advisor taught me how to think like a researcher. Having a trained eye to double-check results can be the difference between a failed experiment and one that can be salvaged.

What was your biggest obstacle?

The biggest obstacle I faced was knowing how to proceed when my results did not turn out as expected. In science, experiments often fail, and part of research is knowing how to proceed when your intended course of action does not go as planned. With the help of my faculty advisor, I overcame many obstacles and continued to do great research.

What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?

I learned many lessons during the SOAR program. My biggest takeaway from this experience is that research takes time and researchers must be able to work with the data they receive to create meaningful progress in their field.

What was the result of your research?

After many trials of cyclization, I identified a new set of reaction conditions which afforded us a yield significantly higher than we have ever had before. Additionally, I improved the efficiency of the synthesis of the linear peptides, and have synthesized some other LamD derivatives as well.

Now that SOAR is over, do you plan to expand upon your research? If so, where would you like to see it go?

I plan to continue my research as an independent study during my junior year of college, and as an honors project during my senior year, where I will develop large libraries of LamD derivatives in order to test them in bioassays of L. plantarum, to see if we can modulate QS.

In your own words, how do you feel about being rewarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program?

I am extremely thankful to Moravian College and the SOAR program for the opportunity to engage in this amazing full-time summer research project. The knowledge and research experience I have gained will aid me in my studies, and has prepared me for further undergraduate and graduate research. Other students should take advantage of the SOAR program in order to fully immerse themselves in their field through full-time research, adding to the discipline’s body of knowledge and preparing them for graduate studies.