April 2010

ASBMB Inducts Chi Omega Lambda Class of 2010


Poster Presentations

Many of the Chi Omega Lambda inductees will be presenting their research in the 14th Annual Undergraduate Poster Competition at the 2010 ASBMB annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif. Be sure to visit their posters and congratulate them on their outstanding achievements. Special recognition will be given to these students at the meeting.

With impeccable academic records and outstanding research, the 2010 class of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology honor society, Chi Omega Lambda, is a cohort of promising young scientists with big dreams and big hearts. Even in the midst of their rigorous academic schedules and busy lives, all of these students have found time to serve their local communities. Whether it’s doing science outreach in schools, tutoring immigrant families in English or volunteering at summer camp, these students represent a smart generation of socially conscious young people who demonstrate that being great scientists also means being good citizens.

Here, in their own words, are awe-inspiring stories from four inductees who were unanimously elected into Chi Omega Lambda by the ASBMB Undergraduate Affiliate Network Committee.

Sarah Edwards

University of Arizona

Education---EdwardsI am a junior majoring in biochemistry at the University of Arizona. I came to Tucson from Austin. I chose to major in biochemistry, because I am fascinated by the chemical processes that occur in living cells. After completing my undergraduate degree, I plan to continue my research and studies in graduate school and earn a doctorate in cell biology. Ultimately, I aspire to conduct research at a university or research institute.

I first began doing research during my summers in high school and have continued my involvement in research at the University of Arizona. Currently, my research in Tsu-Shen Tsao’s laboratory focuses on developing a method to measure the redox state of the endoplasmic reticulum in living cells. This past summer, I studied salt stress on cells under the mentorship of Natalia Dmitrieva and Maurice B. Burg at the National Institutes of Health. I will present the results of my work at the undergraduate poster session at the ASBMB 2010 annual meeting.

In addition to my classes and research, I lead science outreach and education activities in the local community. My goal is to excite kids about science and to give taxpayers (who ultimately support my research) an appreciation of science. I am also involved with the University of Arizona ASBMB UAN chapter, through which I helped to organize an undergraduate research conference for the Southwest region. Outside of science, I love running, cycling and puzzles.


Virzhiniya Lekova

University of Richmond

Education---LekovaI grew up in Bulgaria and came to the United States when I started college at the University of Richmond. This May, I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and molecular biology.

Throughout my undergraduate career, I have been working with glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) and using it as model to study allostery and protein stability. My first research project focused on the evolution of GDH, working to answer the questions of how and why GDH went from exhibiting no allosteric regulation in prokaryotes to exhibiting complex allosteric regulation in mammals. In my subsequent research project, I studied the effects of various nucleotides on the stability of the enzyme. The highlight of my research experience has been presenting my work at the 2008 and 2009 ASBMB annual meetings. The experience taught me how to effectively communicate my results to others, helped to build my confidence in public speaking and gave me valuable feedback about my work.

Outside the classroom and lab, my experiences with teaching and my participation in the organization Women in Math and Science have given me a glimpse of what it is like to be a part the science community. The Women in Math and Science organization on campus provides career guidance to young women. Members regularly meet with distinguished female scientists who talk about the specific challenges that women face in these fields and share their coping strategies. I have worked as a teaching volunteer in a physics summer camp for three-year-olds, as an English-as-a-second-language teacher and as a chemistry teaching assistant. The responsibilities involved in teaching stimulated me to quickly learn how to explain even the most complicated chemistry concepts. But the most important thing I communicated as a teacher, I believe, is a passion for the material. Teaching really has helped me grow as a scientist.

While spending a semester at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, I took a course in molecular genetics and was fascinated by the way the field incorporates classical genetics, biochemistry and cell biology in the discovery of gene-related processes. I remember reading about eukaryotic chromatin packaging structures one night and thinking they are the most awe-inspiring thing I’ve ever encountered. I want to explore this microcosm of the gene, and I plan to do molecular genetics research while pursuing a doctorate in molecular biology.

In my free time, I like to read nonfiction and enjoy running. Running not only gives me a break from intellectual activities but also trains the same “mental muscles” one needs to do good research— endurance, perseverance and the ability to focus on a goal. I am excited to be attending the ASBMB annual meeting again this year and presenting a poster with my most recent research.



Dario Pasalic

University of Arizona

Education---PasalicMuch of my childhood was a nomadic experience. Born and raised in Bosnia and Herzegovina until the age of 6, my family and I emigrated to Germany to escape the tensions of war. Four years later, having explored much of Europe, we decided to move to Arizona, a place I could finally call home.

Achieving a higher education has been my dream since an early age, so attending the University of Arizona was a natural thing to do. Choosing a major was more difficult. I eventually decided on biochemistry and molecular biophysics. At the University of Arizona, my research focuses on muscular dystrophy, a disease that gradually deteriorates skeletal muscle cells, leading to the eventual death of the cells and the surrounding tissue. Specifically, I study the calpain family of proteins, which are calcium-dependent proteases, and, together with the calcium-dependent specific calpain inhibitor, calpastatin, are widely distributed in eukaryotic cells. I have immersed myself in my research by attending scientific conferences, joining professional organizations and participating in clinical research studies. I will be presenting the results of my research at the 2010 American Chemical Society conference.

On campus, I am heavily involved in several student organizations and activities, such as the Peer Mentorship Program, the Student Members of the American Chemical Society-Undergraduate Affiliate Network Biochemistry organization, and, most notably, the first annual Biological, Engineering and Chemical Undergraduate Research Conference for the Southwest region. The latter stands out, because I and several other undergraduates built this conference from the ground up— designing the Web site, recruiting students, raising thousands of dollars and performing myriad other tasks. This was a chance to leave a lasting tradition at the University of Arizona, and it would not have been possible without the support of the Undergraduate Affiliate Network and ASBMB.

Outside of school, I have been volunteering as a hospice companion since 2007, and, in the summer of 2008, I provided aid at a small, rural hospital in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I also have worked with refugee resettlement agencies locally to assist incoming families through English tutoring, finding suitable housing and employment and providing them with general support. The culmination of these experiences over the past four years has led me to realize that, for me, an ideal career must be a combination of medicine, research and community involvement. Having spent the past four years at the University of Arizona, I could not have asked for a better experience.




Huidong Yang

State University of New York at Potsdam

Education---YangI grew up in Suzhou, China, a city known for its classical Chinese gardens, fine silk and green tea. I am currently a senior at the State University of New York at Potsdam, majoring in biochemistry with minors in mathematics and psychology.

My favorite class in college is linear algebra. The class gave me insight into the beauty and ubiquitous applicability of the eigenvalue model, particularly in spectral graph theory— for example, its application in Google’s PageRank algorithm.

The human brain holds a special fascination for me. I think it is the most complex, elegant and powerful system in the known universe, and I believe that mathematics is one of the most elegant and powerful tools one can use to better understand the brain. My love for both mathematics and the human brain has motivated me to pursue a doctorate in theoretical neuroscience and to eventually become a theoretical neuroscientist and teacher.

ASBMB Congratulates the Additional New Members of the Chi Omega Lambda Class of 2010:

Andrew DeVilbiss
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Daniel Laurent
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Jacob Mahoney
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Jim Ruble
Grand Valley State University

Michael Ross
Providence College

Sarah Schreiner
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Travis Wheeler
Eastern Kentucky University

Tyler Wuthmann
Wesleyan University

My current research projects investigate the interaction between proteins and metal ions. One project attempts to clone a potential zinc-binding loop of a zinc-transport protein from a cDNA library. The other is the characterization of the kinetic and thermodynamic parameters of iron binding, oxidation and storage of various ferritins, iron transport proteins and iron chelators. I will be presenting the results of my research at this year’s ASBMB annual meeting.

When out of the lab, I like to play the recorder, draw and read biographies of scientists as well as Chinese classical literature. I also enjoy track and field. I am particularly interested in the famous physicist Richard Feynman and his books, lectures and jokes. One of my favorite jokes has to do with Ernest Rutherford, who once said, “In science, there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting.” Ironically, he won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Chi Omega Lambda was established to recognize exceptional undergraduate juniors and seniors pursuing a degree in the molecular life sciences at a college or university that is a member of the Undergraduate Affiliate Network. Click here for more information about Chi Omega Lambda.

Weiyi Zhao (wzhao@asbmb.org) is the ASBMB manager of education and professional development.

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