The Branchini Bioluminescence Research Group (BRG) at Connecticut College is under the direction of Professor Bruce Branchini in the Department of Chemistry.
Bioluminescence — the emission of light by living organisms—is a beautiful natural phenomenon that has enchanted children, challenged those who have tried to understand it, and provided the basis for an important research tool.
Examples of bioluminescence can be found throughout nature in bacteria, mushrooms, jellyfish, earthworms, clams, fish, and beetles.
The group researches the bioluminescent pathways of fireflies and other organisms, increasing the understanding of how living organisms convert chemical energy into light. With consistent funding from sponsors, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) and the Hans & Ella McCollum '21 Vahlteich endowment, as well as the collaboration of lab technicians and undergraduate students, the Branchini Bioluminescence Research Group is actively developing practical applications for non-toxic biodegradable bioluminescent materials. The group is currently engaged in collaborative research with Professor Speck (University Hospital Zurich) developing novel luciferin and luciferases for in vivo bioluminescence imaging applications.
We encourage students from Connecticut College or from other institutions who are interested in summer research to contact Professor Branchini.
A previous communication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society has generated a good deal of publicity for the group's research. Here are some relevant links:
- American Chemical Society Headline Science - "How do fireflies glow?"
- The Boston Globe - "At long last, we know how the firefly glows."
- National Geographic News: "How do Fireflies Glow? Mystery Solved After 60 Years"
Pictured above: 2019 Research Group, left to right, Brian Huta, Danielle Fontaine, Dawn Kohrt, Bruce Branchini, Allison Racela, Isabel Orbe, and Ben Fort.