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September 4, 2013
Amber Krummel, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, was recently awarded a $600,000 five-year NSF CAREER Award to study pore-forming toxins.
Pore-forming toxins are proteins that are synthesized by many organisms, including the human immune system. These proteins insert into cell membranes in order to allow small molecules to move into cells, cause cell leakage, or actually kill cells.
For this particular study, Krummel’s focus is on the small pore-forming toxin, surfactin, and how it interacts with lipid membranes. Krummel will combine two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy and microfluidic device technology developed in the group in order to probe the surfactin-lipid interactions directly. Surfactin, which is known to have antibacterial, antiviral and antitumor activity, has also been implicated in cell-signaling activities during the formation of biofilm.
Krummel says the project will identify the different ways surfactin interacts with membranes during these important activities. The structural sensitivity offered by 2D IR spectroscopy will be used to quantify the molecular details of the interactions.
Krummel will use the advanced optical spectroscopy to monitor the protein-lipid interaction with structural sensitivity, which, she hopes, will lead to a new understanding of how surfactin self-assembles and interacts with lipids to drive cell signaling processes or the disruption of lipid membranes.
During the course of this project, undergraduate researchers and graduate student researchers will be trained in advanced optical spectroscopy techniques, chemical modeling and data analysis. The same approaches also will be incorporated into the undergraduate curriculum for CSU chemistry majors.
The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.