BRG 2007-2012

Bruce Branchini, Ph.D.
Hans and Ella McCollum '21 Vahlteich Professor of Chemistry

Tara Southworth, B.S., Research Technician
Received a B.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology from University of Connecticut in 1996 and a post-baccalaureate Certificate in Diagnostic Genetic Sciences. I have previous experience in solid tumor research, cytogenetics, and molecular genetics. My current research focuses on examining a proposed domain rotation of luciferase through site-directed mutagenesis and fluorescence studies. Outside of the lab, I enjoy walking my dog, reading, and spending time with my two sons.

Danielle Fontaine, M.A., Research Technician
B.A. in Molecular Biology from Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania in 1999 and M.A. in Cell and Molecular Biology from Boston University in 2002. I was a laboratory instructor for basic biology labs as well as anatomy and physiology lab coordinator while at Boston University. My current research focuses on site-directed and random mutagenesis of firefly luciferase. Our lab has developed a thermostable red- and blue- shifted version of firefly luciferase. Outside of lab I enjoy reading, being outdoors and sports.

Justin Rosenberg, B.A., Research Technician
B.A., Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology (BCMB) from Connecticut College. The BCMB program allowed me to perfectly blend my interests in both chemistry and biology. As an undergraduate, I performed research under Professor Marc Zimmer, studying firefly luciferase through computational modeling and analysis. Current research involves studying firefly luciferase domain rotation, characterizing luciferase substrate analogs, and examining enzyme crystal structures for potential site-directed mutagenesis. During the academic year, I teach science at the Norwich Free Academy in addition to organic chemistry labs at the college. Outside of lab I like to spend time at the beach, swimming, fishing, and boating, playing lacrosse and sculpting.

Curran Behney, B.A., Research Technician
B.A., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Drew University, 2010. As an undergraduate, I researched structural analogues of the chemotherapeutic agent cisplatin. I joined the bioluminescence research group in early 2011 and worked on a project demonstrating the acyl-CoA synthetase activity of cross-linked luciferase. Since then, I have collaborated on a project aimed at elucidating the mechanism of bioluminescence in the marine worm Chaetopterus variopedatus. Outside of lab, I enjoy spending time outdoors and on the water.

Kelsey Row '14, Undergraduate Research Student
Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology (BCMB) major
I've been working in Dr. Branchini's lab since the beginning of my freshman year, and have recently switched from HPLC/LCMS work to more of a molecular biology track working on a mutagenesis project. In addition, I’m working on a project involving the classification of luciferin analogs. I hope to apply to medical school after college, with a specialized interest in surgery. Outside of lab, I enjoy Jeopardy! and dominating at gin rummy.

Yumi Kovic '14, Undergraduate Research Student
I am an undergraduate student at Connecticut College currently undertaking a Biochemistry major with aspirations to attend medical school after college. I have been a part of the Bioluminescence Research Group since the beginning of the 2011 summer. For the past year I have been working on a project exploring the characteristics of novel luciferin analogs. These characteristics include sustained light emission, for some over an hour, and a variety of colors emitted through bioluminescence. Besides being in lab, I like to spend my time exercising, researching random topics on Google, volunteering with the paramedics at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital, and as of lately teaching myself to cook (no fires yet!).

Audrey Davis, B.A,, Research Technician
B.A., Connecticut College, 2009, Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology (BCMB) major and a minor in Religious Studies. I joined the Bioluminescence Research Group in the spring semester of 2007, and shortly thereafter traveled to Italy to perform collaborative research with graduate students at the University of Bologna. In subsequent years I presented two posters at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR), and completed an honors thesis titled “Improved Red-emitting Firefly Luciferase Mutant for Biotechnical Applications.” I took a brief hiatus from science to teach English in Japan with the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET). So lately my free time has been spent trying to learn Japanese, honing my karaoke skills, and selling all of my things on ebay.

Rebecca LaFleur, B.S., Research Technician
B.A., Molecular and Cell Biology and a minor in Chemistry, University of Connecticut, 2008 . As an undergraduate I performed research focusing on cellular motility and the cytoskeleton. My scientific work involves creating and characterizing mutant firefly luciferase, and I am going on to pursue a DVM degree at the Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine. During my free time I enjoy hiking, skiing and car living in the deserts of southern California.

Kelsey Taylor '11, Undergraduate Research Student
B.A, Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology and minoring in Psychology, Connecticut College, 2011. I joined the Bioluminescense Research Group during the second semester of my freshman year and continued to work over the summers (2008,2009) and academic years. I traveled to Italy and witnessed collaborative research done at the University of Bologna in March 2009, and traveled to Missoula, Montana in April, 2010, where I presented the results of an independent study project, "Firefly Luciferase-RFP Fusion Proteins for BRET-FRET-based Protease Assays" with partner Sam Linder. During the summer of 2009 I worked at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute in Buffalo, NY in collaborator Dr. Andrew Gulick's lab where I learned x-ray crystallography and prepared crystals of luciferase mutants. The summer of 2010, I interned at Harvard Medical School with the Summer Harvard Undergraduate Research Program (SHURP) and conducted research on the transport of mitochondria in neurons in Dr. Tom Schwarz's lab. I am using various molecular biology techniques in addition to conducting live imaging studies with fluorescent proteins. I have thoroughly enjoyed working in the lab and am looking forward to conducting my senior honors thesis this coming year. Outside of the lab, I enjoyed running as a member of the College's Cross Country and Track Teams. I plan to attend graduate school for a Ph.D. in Biochemistry or Neuroscience. Kelsey Taylor was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship in 2010.

Samantha Linder '11, Undergraduate Research Student
B.A., Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology (BCMB), Connecticut College, 2011. I began working in Dr. Branchini’s lab the first semester of my freshman year. In the spring of 2009 Kelsey Taylor traveled to Italy, where we visited Dr. Roda's lab in Bologna. We observed our lab’s human-codon optimized luciferase being used to trace cancerous tumors in mice. In the spring of 2010 Kelsey and I presented our independent study research, “Firefly Luciferase-RFP Fusion Protein for BRET-FRET-based Protease assays,” at National Conferences on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in Missoula, Montana. While there we met many more driven undergraduate students presenting their own work—it was an amazing experience. For the summer of 2010 I spent my CELS funded internship in the Nutrition and Food Science department at Auburn University, under the guidance of Dr. Doug White. We researched the effects of leptin on obesity and diabetes using rat models, possibly offering a new means to treating type 1 diabetes in humans. I love the lab environment, along with the great people that work in it, and enjoy cooking, and writing/performing music. I am a member of MOBROC (Musicians Organized for Band Rights On Campus), and performed at various shows on-campus. I plan to attend graduate school and pursue the study of dietetics/food science. Or become a rock star.

Ha Eun Jessica Yi '12
I'm a chemistry major, and I joined Dr. Branchini's research group the summer of 2010. I'm excited to be part of the lab. I worked with Dr. David Lewis last summer, and I presented the findings at the end of the summer in Boston. I am planning to attend graduate school in the future and continue researching. Outside of the lab, I enjoy baking, cooking, reading, and crafting . I'm also a scholar in CISLA (Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts), and I plan to study and intern abroad in my junior year, hopefully in a Spanish-speaking country.

Milton Garrett III '14
I am a Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology major (BCMB) with a pre-med track. I joined Dr. Branchini’s research group in the summer of 2012 and am excited to join the lab. I’ve previously worked with Professor Stanton Ching, for two years and conducted an independent study on synthesizing manganese oxide nanoparticles via a one pot reaction with various di-alcohols. I am a member of the college’s pre-health club and have completed the Paramedic Internship Program with Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. My goals after attaining an undergraduate degree are to enroll in a medical school and specialize in Endocrinology. I enjoy working in a lab environment and learning new things. Outside of lab I love to play/watch any sports, play apples to apples and taboo with friends, and play the piano.

Contact Information:

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