Biochemistry Student Studying Ways to Make Better Antibiotics

Posted on 7/23/2018 9:33:38 AM

Arie Van Wieren is a sophomore biochemistry major in the RESS programArie Van Wieren plans to be a doctor someday, and thanks to IUP’s Research Experiences for Summer Scholars program, he’s able to do projects that he might not have the chance to do until he’s in medical school.

Van Wieren, a sophomore biochemistry major from Indiana, Pennsylvania, is spending the summer on his RESS project titled “Experimental Verification of Key Hotspot Residues for Alanine Racemase Dimerization,” which has him studying a protein that has huge impacts on the medical field because it’s used in the production of antibiotics.

At a time when the human body is becoming more and more resistant to certain antibiotics the more they’re prescribed, the challenge for scientists is to develop new ones.

“A lot of people know how antibiotics have been a big problem in the pharmaceutical industry because bacteria evolve so fast and antibiotics have become a lot more ineffective,” Van Wieren said. “The rate at which people can develop new antibiotics is slower than ones on the market. So, we’re focusing on possible new ways to develop an antibiotic.”

Equipment used in biochemistry labVan Wieren has been working in the RESS program with Sudipta Majumdar, a faculty member in IUP’s Department of Chemistry. He has done most of his research in Weyandt Hall’s biochemistry lab, testing the structure of a protein called Alanine Racemase to see its strengths and weaknesses.

“We do a lot of different experiments involving the structure of this protein because it is integral to the function of bacteria,” he said. “We take the information and run different tests of the efficiency of the protein.”

In its fifth year, the program allows IUP students the opportunity to do research in a field of their choosing under the guidance of a faculty member. This summer, there are 30 students participating in the program. The summer’s events are capped with a keynote speaker and a poster session in August.

“It’s been a great opportunity,” Van Wieren said. “It will help me a lot because I’m getting hands-on experience with things I might not get until later. I’ve met a lot of people from other labs, and I’ve learned a lot.”