BRG Members

Pictured above, the 2014 Branchini Bioluminescence Research Group. Members from left to right: Leah Salituro '17, Professor Bruce Branchini, Tara Southworth, Curran Behney, Munya Talukder '16, Danielle Fontaine and Aliya Holland.

Tara Southworth, B.S., Senior Research Technician
B.S., Molecular and Cell Biology,  University of Connecticut, 1996, and a post-baccalaureate Certificate in Diagnostic Genetic Sciences.
I have previous experience in solid tumor research, cytogenetics, and molecular genetics. Some projects I am working on are examining a proposed domain rotation of luciferase to better understand the mechanism of firefly bioluminescence, determining the bioluminescence properties of mutants of P. pyralis and L. italica luciferases for dual analyte reporter gene applications, and evaluating a newly cloned luciferase. Outside of the lab, I enjoy running with my dog, reading sequels based on Jane Austen’s books, and spending time with my two sons.

Danielle Fontaine, M.A., Research Technician
B.A.,  Molecular Biology, Susquehanna University, Pennsylvania, 1999; M.A. in Cell and Molecular Biology, Boston University, 2002.
I was a laboratory instructor for introductory biology labs as well as anatomy and physiology lab coordinator at Boston University. My current research focuses on creating new P. pyralis mutants, which have higher specificity for the synthetic substrate benzothiophene luciferin (BtLH2). Outside of lab I enjoy reading, being outdoors, salt and freshwater fishing, and sports.

Curran Behney, B.A., Research Technician
B.A., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Drew University, 2010.
I joined the bioluminescence research group in early 2011. Currently, I am working on mechanistic and product analyses of firefly luciferase with novel mutations and substrates. I also study the light reactions of uncharacterized bioluminescent systems, making heavy use of LC/MS and other instrumentation. During the academic year I teach introductory chemistry labs, and outside of lab I generally like to be doing things outdoors, especially on the water.

Leah Salituro '17, Undergraduate Research Student
I am an ACS Chemistry major at Connecticut College and after I graduate I hope I am able to go to graduate school for research and to possibly obtain my PhD. I have been working in the Bioluminescence Research Group since the beginning of Summer 2014. My interests lie in the organic synthesis aspect of this research and I work on synthesizing and purifying adenylates, with the goal to develop new substrates and reagents for reporter applications and for use in our bioluminescent research. My research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Sherman Fairchild Foundation. Besides being in lab, I am also on the Connecticut College women's soccer team. When I am not at soccer or studying, I enjoy going running, reading books, and eating. Fun Fact: my dad and my uncle used to do research with Professor Branchini back in the day!

Munya Talukder '16, Undergraduate Research Student
I am currently an ACS Chemistry major at Connecticut College with aspirations to attend Albert Einstein College of Medicine. I have recently joined professor Branchini’s research group not only to acquire experience conducting research but also to gain exposure to the various experimental techniques utilized in molecular biology. I wanted to explore a new field in which I would have the opportunity to learn material outside of my current field of study. My research project has been funded by the National Science foundation and the Sherman Fairchild Foundation. It involves engineering luciferase variants for improved dual color reporter assay and bioluminescence imaging. The major objective of this project is to develop green- and red-emitting luciferase mutants that express well in mammalian cells and produce two well-separated bioluminescent signals. Outside of lab, I tutor chemistry through the Science Leaders Program. During my free time I like to go on long walks, watch movies, paint, and go shopping with my sisters.

Aliya Holland '17, Undergraduate Research Student
I am an undergraduate student at Wheaton College in Massachusetts with an intended major in chemistry. I joined the Bioluminescence Research Group in Summer 2014 and my research has been supported by the National Science Foundation. In the lab I have been learning to use a variety of different software, such as PyMOL and Seaview. I have been using these programs to produce images and animations of proteins, graph data, and produce phylogenetic trees. Outside of the lab I enjoy reading, watching TV shows and cooking.

Contact Information:

Dr. Bruce Branchini
Hans and Ella McCollum '21 Vahlteich Professor of Chemistry
Phone: (860) 439-2479
Hale Laboratory
Box 5214
Connecticut College