Conducting research at the interface of biology and chemistry
Gregory Newby is not one to shy away from a problem. He was making great progress in the lab developing a biosensor to indicate the presence of an active protease, an enzyme commonly used by cells and viruses to alter or destroy proteins, but he was having some trouble moving forward. Luckily help wasn't hard to find. The next day, Newby gave an impromptu presentation of his project to several biology and chemistry professors, and afterward the group discussed different options he had and how he could best continue with his project.
"I have found that the environment at Carnegie Mellon is particularly nurturing. I know that I can stop by any professor's office and ask for their advice, usually without even making an appointment," said Newby.
Newby's research project lies at the interface of biology and chemistry, and though he is a biology student, he has a great deal of interaction with chemistry professors. In fact, he was recently working in an organic chemical synthesis laboratory to design and synthesize the perfect molecule to tag his protein-of-interest, a protease. Cells contain hundreds of different proteases that play important roles in everything from cancer cell metastasis to wound healing. Newby, under the guidance of his research advisor Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Peter Berget, is working to molecularly engineer a biosensor that will only become fluorescent when it is "cut" by a specific protease. When the protease-of-interest is present, the biosensor will give off light that a scientist can see using a fluorescent confocal microscope.
"Because of the wide diversity of research that is happening here and at nearby universities, I have never lacked the resources to examine anything that I want to in my own research," said Newby. "People are very happy to help out, and even excited to teach a student something new."