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Moravian College

John Barr  ‘16

Major/Minor: Chemistry and Mathematics
Hometown: Marlton, NJ 
Project advisor:  Dr. Alison Holliday

Characterizing Intermediates of Polyproline Folding using Capillary Electrophoresis

Briefly describe your project.

In biological systems, the structure of proteins dictate how the protein will interact with other molecules.  The purpose of this research is to use an instrument called capillary electrophoresis (CE) to understand how a protein called polyproline folds between two different conformations or structures.  Polyproline is known to take two main forms in solution; a PPI form in solutions of aliphatic alcohols, and a PPII form in aqueous solutions.  One can induce a folding process by equilibrating polyproline in one environment and then diluting with the other.  

The goal of this project is to optimize CE conditions so that at various points in time during a folding reaction one could use CE to observe and quantify PPI, PPII and any intermediate forms present.

Describe the origin of your project.

My advisor mentioned in class that she was looking for students to do research with, and I was looking for experience at the time.  After discussing a few ideas, I was intrigued to participate in the research.     

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

Dr. Holliday is great to work with!  I enjoy that she gives good guidance, while still giving me freedom to work on problems how I want to.  She has been one of the best mentors I have known.

What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

Occasionally,  reproducibility can be an issue.  Certain experiments I have done have given different results or have failed to work when repeated.

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

The experience was by far my biggest takeaway.  It has really helped me understand what it means to do research in chemistry. it also  solidified that I want my career and future centered around research.

What was the result of your project? Was it congruent with your hypothesis?

We achieved the goal of observing polyproline fold from one form to another using capillary electrophoresis.  Intermediates were also observed to be present, but were not able to be fully resolved.

Do you think you’ll be able to extend on your research after this summer is over? If so, where would you like to see it go?

Yes, I plan to carry the research  on as an honors thesis, and hopefully get our current results published.