UC Davis was awarded a prestigious Beckman Scholars Program this year and the inaugural class of Beckman Scholars  have just been selected after a rigorous review of written applications and oral interviews. The Beckman Scholars Program is an intensively  mentored undergraduate research experience for the highest achieving students. The research must span 2 summers and the intervening academic year.  The scholars attend an annual Beckman Scholars meeting during their second summer to present their work.

The Scholars for 2012-13 are:

Molly Fensterwald, an NPB major, who will be working with Jared Shaw (Chemistry) on: New Inhibitors for Bacterial Cell Division. FtsZ is a major structural protein involved in the late stages of bacterial cell division. There have been many reported inhibitors of this protein, however most of these compounds have irreproducible results or have undesirable properties (genetoxicity, nonspecific interactions, ect.). One particular compound, Zantrin 3 (Z3), has been shown to specifically interact with FtsZ and inhibit GTPase activity. Despite this, Z3 lacks the potency required to undertake highly informative structural biology experiments. The proposed project involves making analogues of Z3 using synthetic organic chemistry with the goal of making a more potent inhibitor of FtsZ as well as defining the binding site of this class of molecules.

Natalie Telis, a double major in Math and Cell Biology, who will be working with Wolf Heyer (Microbiology) on:  Determing the functions of protein phosphorylation by unbiased systematic parallel analysis. Summary: Rad55, a protein involved in DNA damage repair, is a key substrate of the DNA damage checkpoints. Phosphorylation of Rad55 is an important functional step, induced by a cascade of signaling responses to DNA damage. Phosphorylation at serine or threonine residues can be inhibited by nonsynonymous mutation of the residue to an alanine (which cannot be phosphorylated), mimicked by nonsynonymous mutation to a negatively charged residue (such as aspartate or glutamate), or the gene can be completely removed by deletion of the open reading frame. To determine the function of individual or groups of DNA damage induced phosphorylation events of Rad55, we will take a genomic approach by combining the different mutant types (phospho-minus, phospho-mimic, deletion) in the RAD55 gene with a collection of mutations in 1,500 individual genes. The massively parallel epistasis analysis (EMAP) of the growth pattern in the presence and absence of genotoxic stress represents an unbiased approach to identify novel genetic interactions and will provide a wealth of multidimensional data about functional  interactions with Rad55. Her project aims to elucidate regulatory pathway relationships using bioinformatic analytical techniques and selectively verify the biological significance of the results by highly targeted experiments.