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Emilee Engler and Alec Buttner

Emilee Engler ’21

"Synthesis of Peptide-Based Quorum Sensing Modulators for S. pneumoniae"

Major: Chemistry
Hometown: Bethlehem, PA
Project Advisor: Dr. Michael A. Bertucci

Briefly describe your project.

I worked on the bacteria, Streptococcus Pneumoniae, which is a pathogen responsible for diseases such as pneumonia and sepsis, amongst others. Within the bacteria, there is a peptide called CSP1 that can communicate through a cell-density dependent form of communication known as quorum sensing. My research focused on modifying binding optimized peptides with a substitution in the first position of CSP1, in order to switch QS activators to inhibitors.

Describe the origin of your project.

My project originates from years of hard work of students from past years working on the same peptide, with different end goals to their project. My specific research on the topic was a combination of modifications based on past results.

What’s the best part about working with your faculty mentor? What valuable insights have they brought to your project?

The best part about working with my faculty mentor was the almost partnership that was felt. As a faculty member, it is sometimes hard to communicate efficiently in a comfortable manor with students, but my faculty advisor was helpful in every way throughout the process. I have learned many valuable things about my project, including the best ways of continuing when research isn’t always going the way you expect.

What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

The largest obstacle in the research thus far has been the timing of instrumentation. Within chemistry research, there is a lot of instrumentation used for purification and analyzation, and this instrumentation can sometimes be very time consuming, delaying results.

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

The largest takeaway from this experience for me was learning how to work in a laboratory setting full time. It was very insightful for me moving forward, and only showed me how much I enjoyed dedicating a lot of my time toward research.

What was the result of your project?

The result of my project were the tentative values of how well my peptides worked with inhibiting the natural CSP1 peptide in bacteria. These results are tentative as the research is going to continue, to verify the results. The question is not does or does this work, but rather how well does it work? From my results, one of my peptides provided promising results, launching the research forward for the next steps.

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?

Being awarded the opportunity to do SOAR this past summer made me more confident not only in my work ethic and myself, but it was a valuable experience that helped to shape how I think inside and outside of my major moving forward, and for that I am eternally grateful. This experience helped to increase my passion within chemistry, while simultaneously showing me the options within biology that I may enjoy. This is an experience I would recommend very highly for anyone questioning, as it really teaches you more about yourself than you would ever think. 

Now that SOAR is over, do you plan to expand upon your research? If so, how?

Now that SOAR is over, I do plan to continue to expand upon this research. There are so many more combinations of substitutions available within this peptide sequence that this summer’s research was only the beginning. I have a lot of faith and hope for this project moving forward. 

Have you, or do you plan to present this research outside the SOAR presentations?

I do plan to present this research outside of SOAR! Coming up, I do plan to present at Creative Endeavors Day, as well as a possible ACS conference.