As head of the Branchini Bioluminescence Research Group, Professor Bruce Branchini has furthered research in the field of bioluminescence since his time as a Ph.D. candidate at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. In 1972 Branchini began to work with E.H. White on modifying luciferase with the aim of switching the light emission colors.
Upon the formation of his Branchini Bioluminescence Research Group at Connecticut College, he continued studying firefly luciferases and their reaction mechanisms, identifying an active site peptide in 1997. In 1999, his group proposed a model for explaining how bioluminescence color is determined, based on their site-directed mutagenesis studies of firefly luciferase active site amino acids. Red- and green-emitting firefly luciferase mutants for bioluminescent reporter applications have been made. The group cloned luciferase from the Italian firefly Luciola italica in collaboration with Aldo Roda’s group in Bologna, Italy, in 2005; and from the southern Appalachian Blue Ghost firefly in 2017. The group has also made interesting new substrates and enzymes that produce near IR light. Branchini and two undergraduate students collected species of Orfelia fultoni in Highlands, North Carolina, in 2019; and are continuing studies of bioluminescence and bioluminescent systems.
Since 1976, Branchini has held two permanent faculty positions and has actively directed undergraduate research projects for 42 summers.
Pictured above: Members of the BRG 2014