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  Mentored Summer Program Research Areas  

Mentors at UALR

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Analysis of the Function and Biogenesis of the Contractile Vacuole in Dictyostelium Discoideum
John Bush, PhD

Department of Biology, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

The Bush laboratory is studying the role of Rab (GTPases) in the biogenesis of the Dictyostelium discodieum contractile vacuole to provide insight into how more complex animal systems have evolved to maintain water and ion homeostasis within the organism.
Pre-requisite courses: None
Bioinformatics students:  Yes


Computational Modeling of the 3-D Structure of Protein Molecules

Jerry Darsey, PhD

Department of Chemistry, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

The work performed in the laboratory of Jerry Darsey involves several aspect of bioinformatics. One major area involves the conformational prediction of the 3-D structure of protein molecules.  Given the large volume of genes being sequenced, the rate of new protein sequences is growing exponentially relative to the rate of protein structures being solved by experimental methods. In many situations, an approximate model can help an experimentalist significantly in guiding there experiments. Although current methods are still in their infancy, prediction of structures for all protein sequences of complete genomes in conjunction with experimental work would have tremendous potential for developing new drug molecules for treating diseases. Drug design would also be greatly enhanced with the ability to predict the drug-protein interaction.  Structural analyses on demand of proteins for further mutagenesis, substrate and inhibitor design, and enhanced function and stability is also possible, as is analysis of basic functional behavior on demand using time-tested methods such as molecular dynamics simulations. These methods can use structural data and techniques for structure prediction to probe protein and organismal function and evolution. 

Pre-requisite courses: None

Bioinformatics students:  Yes


Plant Metabolomics for Crop Improvement and Human Health
Stephen Grace, PhD
Department of Biology, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

The Grace laboratory is interested primarily in in understanding how environmental and genetic factors regulate plant metabolism. Plants produce an amazing diversity of small molecules, most of which are referred to as “secondary metabolites” since their functions are unknown. However, these compounds can play vital roles in the defensive arsenals of plants and many have nutritional and pharmacological properties and therefore can have profound impacts on human health. Yet, very little is known about the mechanisms involved in the biosynthesis of almost all plant natural products. Our research is focused on understanding how light intensity regulates the production of valuable chemicals in plants, with special emphasis on compounds derived from the phenylpropanoid and flavonoid pathways. We use genomic and bioinformatic tools and place a strong emphasis on metabolomics to understand this fascinating branch of plant metabolism. Our long-term goal is to use this knowledge to aid the development of more stress-tolerant crops with increased antioxidant capacity to benefit both agriculture and human health.
Prerequisite courses: None
Bioinformatics students: Yes


Molecular mechanisms of photoprotection in Synechocystis PCC 6803
Qingfang He, PhD

Department of Applied Science, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

The He laboratory is studying the molecular mechanisms by which cells cope with intracellular reactive oxygen species. We are particularly interested in the functions of stress inducible proteins and their associated complexes in cyanobacteria. Our exploration covers discovery of new pigment protein complexes, analysis of the structure and dynamics of the photosynthetic apparatus, and uncovering unique photoprotective mechanisms. The approaches being used combine genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics tools. The He laboratory is also interested in developing microalgae as platforms for production of plant pharmaceuticals, and for biofuels.
Pre-requisite courses: None
Bioinformatics students: Yes


Biomechanical Modeling and Control of Movement
Kamran Iqbal, PhD
Department of Systems Engineering, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Research interests of the Iqbal laboratory lie in the area of bio-mechatronics including a) biomechanical modeling and computer simulation of human movement, b) modeling of proprioceptive feedback and motor servo loop, c) postural stability and fall prevention, c) optimization of human voluntary movement, and e) myoelectric control of prosthetic arm.

Pre-requisite courses:  Dynamics, Controls

Bioinformatics students:  Yes


Synergistc Computing and Integrative Genomics Approaches for Diagnosing and Treating Diseases
Mary Yang, PhD
Department of Information Science, Bioinformatics Program at UALR

The Systems Genomics Laboratory (SGL) at MidSouth Bioinformatics Center addresses the big-data genomics and precision medicine research problems by developing and implementing novel computational and statistical approaches. SGL conducts research to integrate multi-layer genomic and large-scale biomedical data at systems biology level for revealing disease mechanisms. We develop synergistic computing and integrative genomics approaches with a particular focus on novel intelligent computing and statistical models to identify disease-causal mutations, disturbed pathways as well as effective drug targets. 

Bioinformatics students: Yes







The Arkansas INBRE is supported by a grant  from the National Institutes of Health

National Institute of General Medical Sciences (P20 GM103429).

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