Students participate in protein crystallography class at BNL

Two William Floyd High School rising seniors, Asma Asghar and Christian Meehan, along with their science research teacher Victoria D’Ambrosia, had the opportunity this summer to participate in a protein crystallography class, Exploring proteins with a New Light, at Brookhaven National Laboratory with several BNL scientists and a handful of students and research teachers from other districts. Students participated in an intense hands-on learning experience focused on biochemistry and the physics of synchrotrons and beamlines.

During the class, students grew crystals from Protenase K and Lysozyme. The first protein is able to digest hair (keratin) while the second found in the white of the egg can cause the lysis of bacterial cell walls. The crystals were exposed to X-ray light at the AMX (Highly Automated Macromolecular Crystallography) and the FMX (Frontier Microfocusing Macromolecular Crystallography) beamlines, which provided the opportunity to examine the three-dimensional structures of the proteins.

“The students and I had an incredible learning experience,” said Ms. D’Ambrosia. “All three of us are excited to submit protein crystallography proposals and continue our work with Brookhaven National Laboratory.”

Additionally, Ms. D’Ambrosia, along with fellow science teacher Anya Swiss, had two of their proposals approved and beamtime allotted for upcoming projects in the fall. Thanks to this approval, students will now have the opportunity to analyze heavy metals in both sediments and those bioaccumulating in arachnids. The teachers are also working on submitting two more proposals – to analyze heavy metals in shark tissues and chemical imaging of the skin/cartilage of sharks. The goal of this project is to analyze the various components/structures within at least seven different shark species off of Long Island.

Special thanks to BNL scientists Dr. Alex Soares, Dr. Seetharaman Jayaraman, Dr. Vivian Stojanoff, Dr. Aleida Perez and Dr. Paul Northrup who worked with the students and their teachers on this project.

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