Bioluminescence Research Group 2019

2019 Research Group, left to right, Brian Huta, Danielle Fontaine, Dawn Kohrt, Bruce Branchini, Allison Racela, Isabel Orbe, and Ben Fort.

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 and characterizing a newly cloned luciferase. Outside of lab I enjoy reading, gardening, salt/freshwater fishing, and chasing my son around!

Brian Huta, Ph.D., Research Technician
Ph.D., Chemistry, Syracuse University, 2014
B.S., Molecular and Cell Biology; Chemistry, University of Connecticut, 2009

My previous research experience includes the total synthesis of the retinal analog, 8,16-methanoretinal, as well as the cloning, expression, purification, and characterization of membrane, soluble, and antibody fusion proteins. In the Branchini lab, I have been fortunate to work on the purification of new luciferase mutants and the synthesis of luciferin analogs to be tested with those mutants. Outside of the lab, I enjoy reading, astronomy, sports, and spending time with my wife.

Dawn Kohrt, Ph.D., Senior Research Assistant
Ph.D., Pharmacology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
B.A., Concordia College, Moorhead, MN
My primary area of work has been in Molecular and Cellular biology with a focus on protein expression and interactions in living cells.  In the Branchini lab, I will be using live cells for testing luciferase mutants and analogs with the goal of improving bioluminescent imaging for live animal studies.  Outside of the lab I enjoy watching my daughter play volleyball, reading, and spending time with my family.

Allison Racela '22, Undergraduate Research Student 
I am a rising sophomore at Connecticut College majoring in Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology. I began working with the Branchini research group in May of 2019, and I am currently involved in testing the activity and intensity of Luciferin variants in live cells. Other than working in the lab, I enjoy running, skiing, and spending time with my friends on campus. 

Ben Fort '22, Undergraduate Research Student
I am a rising sophomore and I plan on majoring in ACS Biochemistry. I began conducting research in Professor Branchini’s lab in March 2019. I’ve focused on the synthesis and purification of luciferin analogs. In order to characterize and monitor my reactions, I’ve been taught a variety of analytical techniques including NMR, LCMS and TLC. In the future, I hope to help synthesize further infrared shifted luciferin analogs. In my free time, I enjoy snowboarding, hiking and biking.