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School of Science Graduate Students Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

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May 15, 2014

School of Science Graduate Students Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Three graduate students in the Biochemistry and Biophysics (BCBP) program of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — Anthony Bishop, Chris Newhard, and Divya Shastry — have been awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships, while five other students have been recognized with honorable mention. The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. 

“These three fellowship awards, and five honorable mentions, are an outstanding recognition of the quality of our graduate students, and we congratulate them on their achievement,” said Wilfredo Colón, associate dean of science for research. “The BCBP graduate program, School of Science and the Office of Graduate Education work closely with our students to introduce them to opportunities like the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and to guide them through the application process. With ongoing plans to enhance our mentoring and guidance, we hope to see even greater success in future years.”

Bishop, a BCBP graduate student in the lab of George Makhatadze, a chaired professor in the Biocomputation and Bioinformatics research constellation, professor of biological sciences, and member of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS), will investigate PAPf39, a protein found in human semen that forms a class of molecular structures — amyloid fibrils — known to dramatically increase HIV infectivity. Because very little is known about the formation and specific conformation of the amyloid fibrils, Bishop will use a combination of molecular dynamics to simulate potential conformations of the protein, and then validate the simulation with experimental data from nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The findings could be relevant to preventing HIV transmission, as well as treating a multitude of other amyloid related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Newhard, a BCBP graduate student in the lab of Douglas Swank, an associate professor of biological sciences and member of CBIS, will investigate the structural and kinetic mechanisms that set muscle shortening velocity. His research focus will be on myosin function, the molecular motor that powers muscle contraction. Understanding how myosin affects velocity has important implications for understanding how animals move, improving athletic training, and designing artificial muscles.

Shastry, a graduate student in the lab of Pankaj Karande, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering and member of CBIS, will investigate the use of peptides for recognition of biochemical elements in targeted protein states. The development of peptides for this purpose can enable biochemical analysis, leading to structural insights into proteins. This work also has the potential for biosensing applications through selective recognition of biomolecules.

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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.