I am a freshman in Schreyer Honors College at Penn State and joined Curtislab in the summer of 2017. I am majoring in Chemical Engineering, and I’m considering minors in Mathematics and Hebrew.

Current Work

I’m involved in the wastewater treatment project, the DARPA project, and the botryococcus separation kit project, but my main focus is on the Neurospora crassa Bioreactor project--a collaborative project CurtisLab is conducting with numerous collaborators at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL).

Neurospora crassa is a fungus that has a very precise ‘biological clock’ or a circadian rhythm. The genes that control this process have been identified (and are detailed in this paper). Humans (and most organisms in fact) have a version of this system, and by studying Neurospora crassa we can expand our understanding of our own bodies, which has important implications for pharmaceuticals, nutrition, etc.

In order to study the cycle, we make use of firefly's luciferase, the enzyme that gives fireflies their trademark glow; luciferase catalyzes a reaction with luciferin and ATP in a cell, and this reaction emits photons. By inserting the luciferase gene on the same promoter as the circadian rhythm genes, this cohort of genes co-expresses simultaneous, allowing for facile characterization of the circadian rhythm by observation of fluorescence.

CurtisLab's focus is on bioreactor and experimental design to optimize this characterization. This includes 'first principle' bioreactor design for light penetration and measurement as well as instrumentation for time-lapsed optical measurements to include a photomultiplier and CCD camera. Skills that I am learning include (but are not limited to): aseptic culturing, prototyping, basic soldering, bioreactor design, etc.

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