Rensselaer Doctoral Student Wins Graduate Student Research Award

Lucas Bowman Sutton to investigate the circadian clock at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

October 19, 2023


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute doctoral student Lucas Bowman Sutton has been selected as one of 60 recipients of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) award. The SCGSR prepares graduate students for science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) careers that are critical to the DOE Office of Science mission. Thanks to the award, Sutton will spend 12 months at Oak Ridge National Laboratory conducting research on the circadian clock.

“Lucas is highly deserving of this fellowship, as he is a dedicated student who has been working diligently to understand the mechanisms that time circadian rhythms,” said Jennifer Hurley, Ph.D., Richard Baruch M.D. Career Development Chair, associate head of the Department of Biological Sciences, and Sutton’s adviser. “This opportunity will grant him access to methodologies and collaborators to enhance his ability to map the proteins that work together to coordinate timekeeping in living cells.”

At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sutton will access the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), “an accelerator-based system that delivers short (microsecond) proton pulses to a steel target filled with liquid mercury through a process called spallation.”

The SNS will allow Sutton to differentiate two proteins that would be difficult to characterize with conventional techniques since they are large and disordered. The proteins are within the neurospora fungus, which models other organisms, including humans. It is thought that the transcription-translation feedback loop regulates the circadian clock, but Sutton will explore the possibility of another type of regulation occurring. Ultimately, the research will contribute to mitigating the negative health effects of circadian clock disruptions and will also shed light on optimizing biofuel production.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to access the tremendous resources of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” said Sutton. “In addition, I’ll be able to learn from their experts and get hands-on experience.”

Sutton’s selection for the award was the result of outstanding academic accomplishments.

“The RPI community is proud of Lucas Bowman Sutton’s accomplishments, and we look forward to hearing about his new discoveries while at Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” said Curt Breneman, Ph.D., dean of Rensselaer’s School of Science. “This work is exciting because it could help to address two pressing issues of our time: public health and climate change.”

“Lucas Bowman Sutton has excelled at RPI as a member of Dr. Jennifer Hurley’s lab, a leading researcher of circadian rhythms,” said Dorit Nevo, Ph.D., acting dean of Rensselaer’s Office of Graduate Education. “We are delighted that he has earned the opportunity to build upon his outstanding foundation as a doctoral student and researcher at RPI by advancing his work with the resources of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He is a shining example of RPI’s innovative and ambitious graduate students.”

Written By Katie Malatino
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