Bioluminescence Research Group 2018

2018 Research Group, from left to right: Bruce Branchini, Ting Lan Cao, Danielle Fontaine, Bridget Higgins, Catherine Florentine, Tara Southworth, and Brian Huta.

Tara Southworth, B.S., Senior Research Technician
B.S., Molecular and Cell Biology and certificates in Cytogenetics and Molecular Diagnostics, University of Connecticut. 

I have previous experience in solid tumor research, cytogenetics, and molecular genetics. Some projects I am working on are developing a dual analyte reporter gene application that utilizes chimeric luciferases based on Photinus pyralis and Luciola italica, and evaluating the bioluminescence system of Orfelia fultoni. Outside of the lab, I enjoy running with my dog, reading sequels based on Jane Austen’s books and mysteries, watching baseball, and spending time with my family.

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.

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.

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 lab I enjoy spending time outside, participating in Conn's Best Buddies program, running, and re-watching The Office.

Ting Lan Cao ’19, Undergraduate Research Student
I am currently entering my senior year at Connecticut College as a Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology major. I am planning on attending medical school after obtaining my undergraduate degree. I began working in Professor Branchini's lab in May 2018, and am currently involved in the purification and characterization of protein variants. Later on, I hope to take part in the synthesis and testing of new organic substrates.