n Lipid Lab, Prof. Frey continued work on projects revolving around the theme of structure and function of cell membranes with a focus on understanding biophysical interactions of neurodegenerative proteins and functionalized nanoparticles with cells. During the 20/21 academic year,
Jordyn Markle (’22 BMB) shifted her work to the Huntington project and worked on the structural and thermodynamic characterization of huntingtin peptides binding to cell membranes while Paige Ashey (’21 Chem) finished her project using fluorescence microscopy to study how nanoparticle functionalization affects their interaction with cell membranes with a focus on measuring induced changes to the interfacial material properties.
Even with the college “population de-densification” complications, Kacie Herr (’22 BMB) and Abby Reitz (’22 Chem) finally got in the physical lab to run experiments they had learned about during remote summer research and introduced new lab member Tristian Kucera (’23 BMB) to pertinent techniques. Abby Deavan (’21 BMB) continued her time in Lipid Lab albeit remotely with weekly one-on-one journal club discussions with Prof. Frey. In Summer 2021, Jordyn Markle (’22 BMB) continued her work on huntingtin peptide-model membrane interactions and developed a fluorescence microscopy assay to quantify changes to the membrane. Abby Reitz (’22 Chem) joined the Huntington project with a focus on using isothermal calorimetry to measure thermodynamic parameters of peptide-membrane interactions. After first focusing on protocol tweaks, Abby was able to successfully measure significant heat differences under different membrane conditions. Working on the nanoparticle project, Kacie Herr (’22 BMB) developed a fluorimeter-based assay to measure changes in membrane fluidity upon introduction of functionalized particles and was able to find correlations based on electrostatics of the system components. Tristian Kucera (’23 BMB) worked in collaboration with Prof. Buettner to start a new project to study metal-membrane interactions in zincosomes, zinc storage vesicles. All of this productive work continued into the 21/22 academic year where the lab bustled with projects and ended with three fantastic senior theses.
In March 2021, Paige Ashey (’21 Chem) and Jordyn Markle (’22 BMB) embraced the world of virtual conferences and presented posters via their computers set up in Lipid Lab at the American Chemical Society meeting. Paige’s work was titled “Functionalized polystyrene nanoparticles alter the structure and stability of model cell membranes” and Jordyn’s poster was “Interaction of PrP(106-126) with model cell membranes.”
A year later in February 2022, after monitoring pandemic conditions for months, Lipid Lab finally attended an in-person conference, the Biophysical Society (BPS) meeting in San Francisco, CA, where each member presented a poster. Abigail Reitz (’22 Chem) presented “Effects of charge on the interaction of the huntingtin N-terminal sequence with model cell membranes” while Tristian Kucera (’23 BMB) had a poster titled “Understanding interactions of zinc with model cell membranes” and Kacie Herr (’22 BMB) presented “Effect of functionalized polystyrene nanoparticles on model cell membranes.” Jordyn Markle (’22 BMB) had a poster “Interaction of the huntingtin N-terminal sequence with model cell membranes” and also participated in the BPS Undergraduate Poster Award Competition where she was named a finalist from among the 60 entries.
In February 2022, Prof. Frey gave a virtual lecture “Interactions of huntingtin with model cell membranes” as part of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Seminar Series at Lewis & Clark College where was she was hosted by her former undergraduate research mentor, Prof. Julio de Paula, a nice full-circle career moment. Following the BPS conference trip, Frey traveled to Williamstown, MA to give a lecture “Interactions of huntingtin with model cell membranes” at Williams College as part of their Chemistry Seminar Series. In March 2022, Prof. Frey traveled with several members of the Chemistry department to the spring American Chemical Society meeting in San Diego, CA where she gave a research talk titled “Interaction of the huntingtin N-terminal sequence with model cell membranes.”