Biochemistry at Carleton

Biochemistry started as an interdisciplinary area, but it has been a discipline for quite a while. Carleton has had activity in the area of Biochemistry for nearly two decades. Yet, the area is growing and maturing, and connecting up to new research and advances in Biology and Chemistry.

Projects listed below were last updated in August, 2006. More recent activities are detailed above.

Past Faculty/Student Research

See descriptions of previous faculty/student research projects.

The Biochemistry Minor

Joe Chihade
Professor and Program Director Joe Chihade (Chemistry)

The Biochemistry Minor at Carleton rests on the close cooperation between the Departments of Biology and Chemistry. Emerging as a recognized discipline early in the last century, biochemistry has grown into a vast subject that spans several established disciplines. It serves as the link between the fields of chemistry and biology, and even as it flourishes at the interface of these subjects, it holds a strong position within the two traditional disciplines. Fundamentally, biochemistry seeks to establish an understanding of biological phenomena at a molecular level.

Students may minor in Biochemistry in addition to majoring in another field. The minor requires courses in Biology and Chemistry, as well as a number of courses at the intersection of Biology and Chemistry.

The Textbook Biochemistry, with Carleton Co-Author

John Tymoczko

Carleton Biology Professor John Tymoczko (left) is an author on the 5th edition of the textbook Biochemistry with co-authors Jeremy M. Berg and Lubert Stryer. Prof. Tymoczko is a biochemist who teaches Biochemistry, Oncogenes and Molecular Biology of Cancer, part of Introductory Biology, and a seminar on Exercise Biochemistry. He is currently writing an introductory level biochemistry text. His research interests are in the area of signal transduction. Prof. Tymoczko is also the Carleton Pre-med advisor.

New Senior Comprehensive Exercise ("Comps") on RNA

Prof. Joe Chihade, Chemistry

Prof. Susan Singer, Biology

Susan Singer and Joe Chihade will be working collaboratively with a small group of senior Chemistry and Biology majors on their comprehensive exercise in winter and spring of 2007. The group will study the work (and related research) of Ron Breaker, a professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale University. Prof. Breaker will be on campus April 5th and 6th, 2007 to give a public talk and interact closely with this "comps group" in several conversations.

New Biochemistry Research-Style Lab

Joe Chihade
Greg Muth, St. Olaf College
Prof. Joe Chihade (left), Chemistry

In spring 2005, Biological Chemistry Laboratory (Chem 321) was developed and taught for the first time by Prof. Joe Chihade. This course was designed to complement material covered in Biological Chemistry (Chem 320), and to serve as another way for students to meet the laboratory requirement for Carleton's Biochemistry Minor. In the long term, this course may be the basis for a single biochemistry lab course that is jointly taught by the Chemistry and Biology departments. The design of the course is an extended, multi-year research project involving site-directed mutagenesis of a metabolic enzyme, cystathionine-beta-lyase. The project is designed to recreate the iterative and cumulative way that knowledge is produced in a research environment. In the first year of the lab experience, students worked in teams of 2-3. They used affinity chromatography to purify the wild-type enzyme, determined kinetic parameters for a set of three substrates, used molecular modeling to design site-directed mutations, and then made the mutations and confirmed the success of the mutagenesis using restriction digestion.

The spring 2006 laboratory began with the purification of the mutant enzymes designed in spring 2005, which were characterized before a second round of mutational design and site-directed mutagenesis. The HHMI-funded Kodak digital imager (below) was utilized during both the protein purification (to visualize SDS-PAGE gels) and the restriction digestion stages of the course. This project was conceived through collaboration with Prof. Greg Muth, a Biochemist at St. Olaf College, who piloted an analogous lab course at St. Olaf in fall 2005. Greg presented a talk about the lab at the 19th Biennial Conference on Chemical Education in summer 2006.

New Course & Lab in Bioanalytical Chemistry

Steve Drew
Deborah Gross
Profs. Steve Drew & Deborah Gross, Chemistry

This new upper-level course with lab, funded by HHMI and to be offered first in winter 2007, will focus on modern techniques for studying proteins and nucleic acids. In consultation with Biology and Biochemistry, bioanalytical themes and methods will be selected to enhance students' understanding of instrumentation and its application to investigating biological systems on a molecular level. The course will focus on four general analytical areas: liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry, luminescence spectrophotometry, electrophoretic separations, and electroanalytical techniques. Chemistry has some of this instrumentation and will seek NSF funds for a capillary electrophoresis (CE) instrument and an electrochemical analyzer. Proposed thematic and project-based experiments include sequencing proteins or nucleic acids by HPLC/ESI-MS, studying metabolic products by CE, selectively labeling and measuring proteins with fluorescent molecules, and constructing enzyme-modified electrodes to quantify small, biologically relevant molecules.

New Interdisciplinary Instrumentation: Digital Imagers

A Kodak ImageStation 2000R (left) was purchased with HHMI funding for teaching and research in Biology and Chemistry. This instrumentation has enhanced the learning experiences of students in courses ranging from Introductory Biology to an upper-level Plant Development course and an upper-level Biological Chemistry lab (noted above). It is also heavily used by several faculty research groups. Digital imaging of DNA, RNA, and protein gels and chemiluminescent blots has replaced the use of Polaroid cameras and X-ray film which were difficult and expensive to maintain, partially because of the high cost of film. With this digital imager and a shared server that students can access, each student in a lab group can work with the image of his or her gel at almost any time. The instrument allows us to enhance contrast and see bands on gels that were not visible with the Polaroid cameras. In addition, the ability to use this equipment for densitometry allows us to obtain more information from our gels. A Dell computer, also funded by HHMI, captures the digitized image and has software that allows for adjustment of contrast, comparing of relative densities, and more.

An Amersham StormTM Gel and Blot Imager (at left) was also purchased with HHMI funds, providing PhosphorImager capability. This instrument is very good at digitizing 32P. The Amersham will be used for sequencing gels and other blots where radioactive labeling material is used. The Amersham imager has a Dell computer to record the digitized image. Profs. Joe Chihade (Chemistry) and Stephan Zweifel (Biology) have plans to use this phosphorimager in research and teaching settings.

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