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Amanda Miller '17 

“Polyproline folding: the effect of chain length and interactions”

Major: Biochemistry and Business Management with a track in Organizational Leadership
Hometown: Nazareth, PA
Advisor: Dr. Holliday

Briefly describe your SOAR project.

My project entails Folding, which is a process that allows a peptide or protein to convert into a more stable form to be used in the body, but on few occasions the protein can fold incorrectly and lead to disease. By better understanding how the protein folds normally, we can learn what is occurring during misfolding. When a polyproline peptide folds from one helix to another, there are several intermediates that form as a result of the transition.

My work specifically focuses on observing the intermediates during this transition using capillary electrophoresis (CE), where molecules are separated based on size and charge. My method of analysis uses Microsoft Excel to overlay the intermediates at different time points within the transition as well as the Origin program where I can fit peaks to determine how many are present at specific time points during a transition.

How did your faculty advisor guide you through your research?

Working with Dr. Holliday has been a privilege. She has helped me become a better scientist as she pushed me to think about what the next steps would be if my initial experiment did not work. This required extensive reading of research articles as well as scientific knowledge to understand what the best steps would be in terms of moving forward. I have been given great advice from her in regards to presenting my work to a large audience and even career advice. She has been such a great mentor and I am so happy to have been given this opportunity.

What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

My biggest obstacle has been figuring out what the next steps were when we ran into roadblocks, such as the instrument not working or our results not being what we had initially expected.

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

My biggest takeaway from this experience is realizing that you are not always going to get a definite answer to your question. You will have to continuously regroup and figure out what new questions you need to answer in your research. Dr. Holliday has consistently told me that research is a learning process with many bumps along the way and to not get discouraged when you don't get results right away.

What was the result of your project?

The result of my project indicates that there is a definite difference between polyproline chain lengths and added interaction but more analysis is underway.

Will you expand on your research after this summer is over? If so, where would you like to see it go?

Now that SOAR is over I plan to expand my research as an independent study. As of now I have just completed my first semester of independent study and I plan to continue it next semester as well. My ultimate goal is to have my research published in a scientific journal.

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

SOAR was a wonderful experience that I will always be grateful for. I am so lucky to have found an undergraduate institution that funds students to perform their own faculty advised research. It has allowed me to interact with students from other disciplines that I otherwise would not have come in contact with. By attending weekly presentations with other students, I was given the opportunity to learn a lot of interesting material for the other research projects.

Aside from the social part, I learned a lot about my research project by collaborating with my mentor, Dr. Holliday. I highly encourage all students to apply to this program especially if they are looking to perform research on a specific topic in their major. The SOAR program gives the experience necessary to set you apart from the rest, whether that be for graduate school or future careers.