Campus wide, College of Science and Mathematics

Students receive funding for research projects

By Jan Joslin | May 3, 2022
All the research grant recipients and their faculty sponsors at the SCICU Research Symposium. Photo provided

Three Charleston Southern students were among the 21 student presenters at the 2022 Research Symposium of the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities. The 21 students represented 18 research projects from eight of the SCICU’s 21 institutions.

The research grants were awarded in 2021, and students presented their findings last month.

Amber Alliston and Colton Huber, under the sponsorship of Dr. Joshua Wofford, assistant professor of chemistry, presented Experimental and Computational Methods for Understanding Copper Import, Trafficking, and Regulation as a Systems Level Model in S.cerevisiae.

Wofford said, “We started a project where we are studying copper intake and use in S. cerevisiae (baker’s yeast). We hope that insights gained from this and future research will be useful in understanding and treating Wilson’s disease and Menke’s disease.” 

Amber Alliston, a senior biology major, has dreamed of doing scientific research since she was in middle school and studying the anatomy of animals. “The SCICU grant allowed me to research something that is not well known,” said Alliston.

Both Wilson’s and Menke’ diseases are inherited. In Wilson’s disease, copper accumulates in some of the body’s organs, and with Menke’s disease, the body doesn’t absorb copper. Alliston plans to research copper trafficking in a pharmaceutical aspect. She said, “I didn’t know much about these diseases before researching with Dr. Wofford, but now I have a drive for knowing more about them and helping people affected by them.

The SCICU-funded research project has helped Alliston in her understanding in science classes and communicating with her peers more effectively. She said, “The summer after we were accepted to receive the grant, I was blessed with an offer as an intern in pharmaceutical validations. Since then, I have been offered a permanent position upon graduation. I plan to work my way to research and development to continue the research that I began here and apply it to the treatment of diseases.” 

Alliston took a leap of faith moving to Charleston and attending CSU. “I came from a small town where the last focus was God and education,” she said. “I thank God that he put me on this path and gave me blinders as a child. This allowed me to develop the love for research that I have today.”

Colton Huber is a junior and is planning to go to medical school and eventually become a physician-scientist.

Huber said, “I would like to do clinical research in genetics when I graduate and maybe one day apply what we learned from doing our copper project to further advance the field of medicine.”

He said, “I would just like to thank Dr. Wofford for providing me with an opportunity to do research under him for the last two years.”

Busola Bamidele Oseni, under the sponsorship of Dr. Aiye Liang, professor of chemistry, presented Investigation of Protein-Glycosaminoglycan Interactions by Capillary Electrophoresis. 

Liang said, “It is known that the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has become a global crisis, and which has resulted in a rush to find effective treatments for COVID-19. One of the targets is the viral spike protein (S-protein), which plays critical role in viral infection by recognizing host cell receptors and mediating fusion of the viral and cellular membranes. One of the interventions is to block the interaction between the host cell receptors and the S-protein with antibodies or small molecules. We chose heparin and the recombinant SARS-CoV-2 S-protein RBD in this project. The analysis of the S-protein along with its interaction with heparin, a naturally occurring glycosaminoglycan, were analyzed using capillary electrophoresis. We found out that heparin has strong interaction with the S-protein. Further investigation will focus on finding the binding constants and investigate the interaction of other glycosaminoglycans to the S-protein.” 

Oseni, a senior biochemistry major, said receiving the research grant meant she could explore her passion for scientific research on a bigger scale and challenged her to learn more research-based writing and public speaking skills as well as the hands-on experience of working in the lab with Liang. 

She hopes to attend graduate school and continue scientific research. Oseni said, “Working through this SCICU research project has given me so much more perspective into what research entails, such as the level of time, persistence and detail that a research project requires. Working alongside with my professor provided me with so much knowledge in the field of chemistry. I got to apply the concepts I learned in my chemistry classes and also know how to write scholarly abstracts for a research paper.”

Oseni thinks other students should apply for an SCICU research grant for the broader perspective of what research entails. She said, “A huge bonus for me was getting to hear other students from different colleges present their projects and network with fellow students interested in research.”

Learn more about South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities at scicu.org.


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