Institutional Awards

American University of Sharjah (subaward). $61,155. (Sam Brandauer, CGSE and Lindsey Lyons, CSE) “The Transformative Sustainability Project”              

Faculty Awards

American Physical Society – 2024 Prize for a Faculty Member for Research in an Undergraduate Institution. $12,000. (Lars English, Physics) For innovative experiments involving undergraduate students on nonlinear patterns in electrical lattices and networks that have elucidated the interplay of nonlinearity and geometry in the emergence of coherent spatial and temporal structures.

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. (Brett Pearson, Physics and Astronomy) “Advancing Multidimensional Spectroscopies: Development of Broadband, Temporally-Shaped UV Laser Pulses Using an Adaptive Pulse Shaper”

National Institutes of Health – Academic Research Enhancement Award for Undergraduate-Focused Institutions. $351,294. (Colin Rathbun, Chemistry) “Orthogonal split luciferases for imaging multiplexed cellular behaviors” Disease states are characterized by complex interactions that occur between a variety of cell types and biomolecules in an organism. Researchers have turned to bioluminescence imaging (BLI) to track the behavior of these cells and understand the underpinnings of disease and the development of effective treatments. BLI utilizes the light-emitting ability of bioluminescent enzymes to sensitively illuminate individual cells without the need for surgery. Because organisms do not glow, BLI is exquisitely sensitive, with the ability to detect as few as one glowing cell in the body of a mouse. This has enabled researchers to study the efficacy of cancer-killing drugs, the location and progression of infection, and the success of stem cell treatments. Despite its ubiquity in the field, BLI of multiple different cell types simultaneously remains difficult. Our research seeks to further expand the utility of this tool through a unique approach to multicomponent bioluminescence imaging. To accomplish this, we will repurpose a split bioluminescent protein called NanoBiT. NanoBiT comprises a heterodimer binding pair made up of a small peptide, called SmBiT, and a larger protein subunit, called LgBiT. NanoBiT is only capable of light emission when SmBiT and LgBiT bind. In Aim 1 of the proposal, we will use protein engineering and directed evolution techniques to produce orthogonal SmBiT-LgBiT binding pairs. Libraries of LgBiT enzymes will be cloned, and a panel of SmBiT peptides will be synthesized. High-throughput techniques will evaluate the light emission of each LgBiT mutant in combination with each SmBiT peptide. “Winning” mutants will be sequenced via next generation sequencing (NGS) and mutations will be combined to form optimized orthogonal probes. In Aim 2 we will test our new orthogonal NanoBiT probes in mammalian cells, tissue models, and in the bodies of live mice. First, to improve the tissue penetration of NanoBit light emission, we will modulate the color of bioluminescence by appending small molecule fluorophores to our SmBiT peptides. Stable mammalian cell lines containing our probes will next be tested with our SmBiT-fluorophore probes in tissue models and in live mice. Probes will be judged by their sensitivity and selectivity. This work will represent the first effort to adapt NanoBiT for multicomponent imaging. Our protein engineering data will be immediately useful to the bioluminescence imaging community. Further, these probes will be useful for imaging protein-protein, host-pathogen, and cancer-immune cell interactions. Disease progression is characterized by a complex interplay of a variety of cell types in living organisms. The ability to “see” these interactions is crucial for understanding the causes and potential treatments of illness. We are developing bioluminescent proteins that will illuminate multiple cell types at the same time in the body of a mouse to study such interactions. This research is supported by the National Institute Of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R15GM151711. The results of this research will be solely the responsibility of the Principal Investigator and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History – Short-Term Fellowship Program (Smithsonian Marine Station, Fort Pierce, FL). $3,000. (Marcus Key, Geosciences) “Bryozoan fouling of sea turtles”

Studio Verde – Artist in Residency Program. (Andrew Bale, Art and Art History)

Engagement Scholarship Consortium – Engaged Scholarship Research/Creative Activities Grants Program for Faculty. $5,000. (Andrew Bale, Art and Art History) “Ukrainian Refugees: A Participatory Mapping Initiative in Slovakia”

Student Awards