Join us for a summer of exciting research. We currently expect the REU grant to be renewed by the NSF, so the program should be active in 2020. We will begin making offers on March 1 after the NSF funding decision is finalized. Offers will be made on a rolling basis until all positions are filled.

WPI’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is hosting undergraduate students from around the country at a new NSF-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates site. As an NSF-funded project, only US citizens and permanent residents are eligible for support. You will participate in projects ranging from membrane biochemistry to bio-inspired materials synthesis all geared toward solving important problems in biology. WPI undergraduates are not eligible for the REU, but can obtain support for summer research through the SURF program. Application and eligibility questions can be directed toward the site director Arne Gericke (agericke@wpi.edu) or co-director Shawn Burdette (scburdette@wpi.edu). General inquiries can be directed to chem-biochem@wpi.edu.

PROGRAM SUPPORT—Students will receive a stipend of $6,000, a free WPI dormitory room in housing dedicated to participants in various WPI REU sites, and a travel subsidy.

ACADEMIC PROGRAM—In addition to research activities, students will have the opportunity to participate in a weekly seminar series with topics that include career development, scientific ethics, and students research presentations.

CONFERENCES—Students will participate in a summer research conference with other WPI REU sites and two students will have the opportunity to present at an ACS National Meeting.

SOCIAL EVENTS—Throughout the summer, various social events will be planned including cookouts, a whitewater rafting trip, hiking excursions, a trip to Boston, a classical concert at Tanglewood, and opportunities to attend sporting events.

Choosing your summer project

You will provide as part of the application process your top three choices from the projects listed below where you will pursue your research in a group of scholars. Several of these projects are multiple student/mentor projects, in which each REU students will work with a different mentor on separate aspects of a larger project.

Apply to be part of the REU program!

Photochemical C-H Bond Functionalization Project

The Musacchio research group specializes in this endeavor and is passionate about developing new reactions to assist medicinal chemists. Undergraduate research projects in our group are available it two different areas: 1) use of rhodium catalysts to synthesize a small library of oxazinones in an expedient fashion, or 2) use of light-activated catalysts to enable the formation of novel C-X bonds (X = N, O, F, etc) directly from C–H bonds. The goal of this project will be to train students to be proficient in organic chemistry laboratory skills (reaction setup, workup, compound isolation, structure analysis, etc), and introduce them to modern challenges in the medicinal field.

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Mattson synthesis

Non-Covalent Catalysis and Drug Discovery

Join the Mattson group’s research program on natural product inspired drug discovery. The project goals are dedicated toward understanding how silanediols, a new family of non-covalent catalysts, can enable useful reactivity patterns for the synthesis of novel therapeutic agents. Participants investigating this project will get hands-on mentoring from Anita in a variety of areas, including catalyst design, new methodology development, organic synthesis, and scientific communication.

Membrane Morphology Project

Membrane bilayers are built from hundreds of different species of phospholipids.  The types of lipids within membranes control their most basic properties, such as permeability and fluidity.  However, we do not yet understand the mechanisms that control what types of lipids are included in a given membrane.  The aim of this project is to use mass spectrometry- and microscopy-based methods to explore how the membrane phospholipids are regulated and how the types of lipids present impact membrane function. This project is a collaboration between the Gericke and Olson labs.

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Guest trapping strategy. The photocaging trapping group (red) prevents the guest (gray) from diffusing from the MOF channels until the light-induced uncaging event

Porous MOFs Project

Porous metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are crystalline 3D-coordination polymers that exhibit permanent porosity, high thermal stability, and large channels.  Tuning the molecular building blocks that comprise the MOFs gives us "knobs" for tuning pore size and functionality to achieve the desired chemical properties.   The resulting MOFs may be used as host materials for molecular sorption, gas storage, and guest detection.

We are developing new MOF scaffolds to trap molecular guests for drug delivery as well as for energy storage (i.e. chemical fuels).  We are also synthesizing photoreactive capping groups to trap the guests inside the MOF particles until we apply light to trigger the molecules' release. There are many possible applications for light-based molecule delivery, but of particular interest is the temporally and spatially controlled delivery of drugs and other bioactive molecules.  The project employs both inorganic and organic syntheses, as well as physical chemistry characterization methods and is a joint effort between the McDonald, the Burdette, and the Grimm groups.

Phospholipase Protein Interactions Project

The enzyme phospholipase Cbeta (PLCb, depicted in blue) binds to the plasma membrane of cells to transmit signals from hormones and neurotransmitters that cause the cell respond in some way, such as movement or division. We found that PLCb will also bind to another protein C3PO (in orange). This binding causes PLCb to move off the membrane to reduce signals from extracellular agents and cause the loss of production of specific proteins.  The goal of this project in the Scarlata lab is to develop of reagent that will compete with the association between PLCb and C3PO using mass spectrometry and fluorescence spectroscopy. This reagent can then be used to control the response of cells to stimuli.

Metal Ion Transport Proteins Project

Transition metals such as copper, zinc and iron play central roles in biology as catalytic and structural components of proteins. Proteins that move metals across the biological membranes are necessary to maintain the correct metal concentrations in cells. We combine computational modeling and experimental biochemistry to understand how these transporters select specific metals translocate them across membranes.  Our experiments include making 3D proteins models, theoretical calculations of metal binding, mutation of amino acids important for transport, and biochemically testing the transport by mutated proteins. This project is hosted jointly by the Argüello and Kaminski groups.

Publications with former WPI REU co-authors

REU students names are underlined

4. Jingjing Yan, Rick Homan, Corrianna Boucher, Prem Basa, Katherine Fossum, Ron Grimm John MacDonald and Shawn Burdette. Photochem. Photobiol. Sci. 201918, 2849–2853. On-Demand Guest Release from MOF-5 Sealed with Nitrophenylacetic Acid Photocapping Groups

3. Rick A. Homan, Dalton S. Hendricks, Thomas M. Rayder, U Shwe Thein, Katherine J. Fossum, Adriana P. Claudio Vázquez, Jingjing Yan, Ronald L. Grimm, Shawn C. Burdette and John C. MacDonald. Cryst. Growth Des. 201919, 6331–6338. A Strategy for Trapping Molecular Guests in MOF-5 Utilizing Surface Capping Groups

2. Rameez Ali, Yong Guan, Alexandria N. Leveille, Elizabeth Vaughn, Sangram Parelkar, Paul R. Thompson and Anita E. Mattson. Eur. J. Org. Chem2019. 6917-6929. Synthesis and Anticancer Activity of Structure Simplified Naturally Inspired Dimeric Chromenone Derivatives.

1. John P. Cvitkovic, Connor D. Pauplis and George A. Kaminski. J. Comput. Chem. 2019, 40, 1718-1726​. PKA17—A Coarse‐Grain Grid‐Based Methodology and Web‐Based Software for Predicting Protein pKa Shifts​.