Pictured above: The 2014 Summer Research Group:
Bruce Branchini, Ph.D.
Hans and Ella McCollum '21 Vahlteich Professor of Chemistry
Catherine Florentine, B.A. Research Technician, Connecticut College 2018
I graduated from Connecticut College in May 2018 with a B.A in Biochemistry/Cellular and Molecular Biology and a minor in Dance. In the future, I am planning to attend dental school and ultimately pursue a career as an orthodontist. I began working in Dr. Branchini’s lab in January 2016 to initially work on a mutagenesis project to produce a red light emitting enzyme for in vivo imaging. Currently, I am focused on the synthesis of new luciferin molecules. Some of my favorite tasks in the lab include mini-preps, flash purification, and most importantly, calibrating the pH meter! Outside of the lab, I enjoy teaching dance and tumbling, as well as spending time with my family. Catherine is currently enrolled in the University of Connecticut dental school.
Bridget Higgins '20, Undergraduate Research Student
I am a rising junior at Connecticut College majoring in behavioral neuroscience. I began working in Dr. Branchini’s lab in May of 2018 and am currently involved in purifying and characterizing P. pyralis Luciferase mutants. Outside of the lab, I enjoy spending time outside, participating in Conn's Best Buddies program, running, and re-watching The Office.
Emma Henricks, ‘19, Undergraduate Research Student
I am a Biochemistry, Cellular, and Molecular Biology major at Connecticut College, hoping to pursue a graduate degree in biochemistry or developmental biology. I began working with Professor Branchini in February 2016, and am currently involved in synthesizing new organic substrates to be used for reporter assays. Outside of the lab and my studies, I enjoy dancing, running, and writing. Emma currently works at the MGH Institute of Health Professionals, and she is specializing in genetic counseling.
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.
Yumi Kovic '14, Undergraduate Research Student
Connecticut College, 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 late, teaching myself to cook (no fires yet!). Yumi is currently enrolled in the University of Connecticut medical school.
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. Audrey is current a software development engineer in Seattle.
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. Rebecca is currently a senior clinical veterinary at the Jackson Laboratory in Maine.
Kelsey Taylor '11, Undergraduate Research Student
B.A, Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology and minoring in Psychology, Connecticut College. 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.
http://aspen.conncoll.edu/news/6150.cfm. Kelsey obtained a Ph.D. Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Harvard University and currently works at Biogen in Cambridge, MA.
Samantha Linder '11, Undergraduate Research Student
B.A., Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology (BCMB). 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. Samantha obtained a Ph.D. Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Harvard University and is currently is a scientist at Stealth NewCo in Boston, MA.
Ha Eun Jessica Yi '12
Chemistry major. 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. Jessica is currently a pediatric dental resident at the University of Pennsylvania Children's Hospital.
Milton Garrett III '14
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. Milton is currently a research professional in Chicago.
Pictured at left: Branchini Research Group, 2013.
Derrick Roy '14
Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology (BCMB) major. I can experience the vast field of biology while also being able to examine specific chemical interactions that allow all organisms to function. While I originally came to Connecticut College as pre-med, I recently have shifted my goal to attend graduate school in continuing research in my field. I joined the Branchini lab as an independent study student in the spring of 2012 with an interest in organic synthesis. My research has been primarily focused on synthesizing the novel luciferin analog benzothiophene luciferin and similar benzothiophene derivatives, which will help to further other projects in the Branchini lab. When I am not ‘nerding’ in the lab, out I enjoy walking dogs at the Connecticut Humane Society, playing classic Nintendo games, and reading Steven King novels.
Alex McGurk ’17, Undergraduate Research Student (BRG 2015)
Majoring in ACS Biochemistry at Connecticut College with the goal of attending medical school afterward. I have been working with Professor Branchini since October of 2014, specializing in the biochemistry portion of the research he conducts. I began working in this lab to better understand how proteins work and how to manipulate them to create a desired effect. My research has been supported by the National Science Foundation. A fun fact about me is that I love dogs and will hopefully own at least one for the rest of my life, and my current dog’s name is Toby. Alex is currently attending the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Deniz Yetil '18. Undergraduate Research Student (BRG 2015)
I am a BCMB Chemistry Major at Connecticut College. I hope to go to medical school upon graduation, working in the U.S. Army soon after. I began working in the Bioluminescence Research Group in the beginning of Summer, 2015. I am interested in chimeric protein analysis and the expression of firefly proteins in kidney cell lines. My research is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Sherman Fairchild Foundation. I enjoy fixing objects, learning about new scientific advances, and hanging out with my friends. Fun fact: I play rugby for Connecticut College.
Rakhshi Qureshi ’18, Undergraduate Research Student (BRG 2015)
I am an ACS Chemistry and Anthropology double major at Connecticut College. After I graduate, I hope to attend graduate school and continue my studies to possibly attain a Ph.D. I wish to work toward a career in either Forensic Toxicology or as a Researcher. I was first introduced to bioluminescence in my high school by Professor Marc Zimmer. I continued to learn about bioluminescence with Professor Marc Zimmer in his freshman seminar class, during which we visited the bioluminescence bay in Puerto Rico. This deepened my interest of learning more about bioluminescence and motivated me to join the Bioluminescence Research Group to not only learn more, but also to become familiar with the different experimental techniques and gain experience in conducting research. My research has been supported by the National Science Foundation. Aside from being in lab, I love to play volleyball, read, and eat.
Munya Talukder '16, Undergraduate Research Student (BRG 2014)
Munya at the NURDS conference 2015 I am currently an undergraduate student at Connecticut College pursuing an ACS chemistry major 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 objectives 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. Munya is currently a medical student at Jacobs School of Medicine in New York City.
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! (Leah is pictured at right.) Leah is currently a Chemistry Ph.D. candidate at UC Irvine.