2017 Summer Scholars: Lynn Luckenbaugh

by Marcus Stewart on September 5, 2017

The Summer Scholars program allows students serious about research to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor to design and implement a research project during the summer and present their findings in the fall. Each year students are selected from various majors across campus. Lynn Luckenbaugh was one of the thirteen summer scholars selected into the 2017 Summer Scholars program.

A senior majoring in Biochemistry and Math, Lynn’s project is entitled “Investigation of a Putative Hydroxymandelate Synthase in Streptomyces violaceusnige”. She’s been working with Dr. Sarisky to investigate the function of enzymes in Streptomyces violaceusnige and collect more data on metal, pH, and temperature preferences.

“There are two related enzymes, HMS and HPPD.  HMS catalyzes a reaction important in vancomycin synthesis, an antibiotic, and HPPD catalyzes a reaction important in tyrosine catabolism.  I am studying an enzyme from Streptomyces violaceusniger that is thought to be an HMS, but due to the similarity of the enzymes may have HPPD function instead. I chose this project because I wanted to study an enzyme that was useful for something, like antibiotic synthesis, and I thought that the idea of HMS and HPPD being so similar but having different functions was interesting”.

Lynn wanted to do the summer scholar program because she enjoyed doing research over the school year and wanted to do research full time over the summer. In completing the project she hopes to gain more biochemical laboratory techniques.

“I have not yet completed this project. I have successfully produced a sample of this enzyme but I have not yet been able to show activity.  There have been issues trying to get the starting material for this reaction into solution.  Due to the time spent investigating this issue, the batch of enzyme I had produced and purified sat in the freezer for about a month.  This could have caused activity levels to decrease.  I plan to start the fall semester by producing and purifying another batch of enzyme to see if I can detect activity in it”.

As Lynn reflects on her time spent at Roanoke, she says that research has been one of her most valuable experiences.

“While taking a lecture class or a lab allows you to learn material and gain some experience, research allows you to gain independent experience with procedures common in your discipline and it allows you to really master a skill.  It also teaches you problem solving skills, time management, and many other important transferable skills”.

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