• 01 Oct 2013

    Research Program Offers Unique Opportunity for Undergraduates

    OXFORD, Miss. – Ten undergraduate students from across the country gained a wealth of research experience this summer at the University of Mississippi, thanks to a new program funded by the National Science Foundation.

    Moreover, some students helped further UM research programs that are searching for new drugs to treat a range of human ailments, including Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder and some cancers. Others focused on projects that expand knowledge in several chemistry disciplines.

    The Research Experience for Undergraduates, commonly referred to at Ole Miss as the Physical Chemistry Summer Research Program, recruited students who had completed at least their first year of college but had not yet graduated. REU researchers gained hands-on experience covering a broad range of topics related primarily to chemistry.

    “One goal of the program is to give a research experience to undergrads by involving them in real research projects,” said Robert Doerksen, a REU program participant and associate professor of medicinal chemistry in the UM School of Pharmacy. “By doing so, the students are able to test their abilities and expand their ideas of what further educational path to follow.”

    Doerksen’s project focused on understanding and quantifying the interactions of small-molecule inhibitors with two protein kinases, which are attractive targets for drug design. Caleb Swain, a rising senior at the Georgia Southern University in Georgia, and Laura Beth Jobe, a rising senior from Erskine College in South Carolina, helped Doerksen with the project.

    “The interactions between a drug target (protein kinase), a potential drug ligand and water improve the binding affinity of the ligand for the protein kinase active site,” Jobe said.

    By helping the drug ligands bind to the target, the researchers hope to block the protein kinases’ ability to cause cellular processes that trigger diseases and other human ailments.

    “This blocking is desirable in the treatment of many diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder and certain types of cancer,” Jobe said.

    Read More at Ole Miss News