Six undergraduate scientists travel to a national meeting in San Antonio to present their research

Howdy! Y’all ever seen huskies swap their snowshoes for cowboy boots?

In the heart of San Antonio, Texas, a vibrant cohort of scientists from Northeastern University’s College of Science rocked the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s #DiscoverBMB annual conference. Among them were undergraduates Guillermo Antunez Tierney, Linden Burack, Migue Darcera, Soumili Dey, Diana Turrieta, Jill Zerkowski, graduate student Nicole Cavanaugh, and faculty members Mary Jo Ondrechen and Jing-Ke Weng. Together, they unveiled their cutting-edge research, showcasing Northeastern’s commitment to innovation and excellence in the field of biochemistry and molecular biology. Professor Kirsten Fertuck, the Biochemistry Director and ASBMB Chapter faculty advisor, was involved with trip logistics and planning, as well as arranging an NU group dinner during the conference.

Third-year undergraduates and above were able to participate in the Undergraduate Poster Competition held on Saturday, March 23. Out of nearly 300 posters, Diana Turrieta (right) and Guillermo Antunez Tierney (left), both third-year biochemistry majors, were acknowledged with honorable mentions. Diana, who works in Professor Tovah Day’s lab, is researching the mechanisms of BAZ2B chromatin remodeling at G Quadruplex DNA. Guillermo, associated with Professor Veronica Godoy-Carter’s lab, showcased his investigation on regulating biofilm deficiency in Lon protease-mutant Acinetobacter baumannii.

The remaining undergraduates presented their work on a wide array of topics. Linden Burack, a student in Professor Michele Di Pierro’s lab, presented on informing models of in-silico DNA digestion. Soumili Dey, associated with Professor Godoy-Carter’s lab, presented on the mechanism of DNA-damage induced recA regulation in Acinetobacter baumannii. Migue Darcera, a student in Professor Yunrong Chai’s lab, presented a novel function of an anionic polymer in biofilm formation and development. Finally, Jill Zerkowski, who works in Dan Wilson’s lab (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering), presented on optically and conformationally responsive hydrogels.

In addition to the undergraduate presentations, Professor Mary Jo Ondrechen shared insights from her lab’s Machine Learning methodology, Partial Order Optimum Likelihood (POOL), which predicts biochemically active amino acids within protein structures. During an interest group talk, graduate student Nicole Cavanaugh, under the mentorship of Professor Chai, showcased her research on Bacillus subtilis biofilm formation and its interaction with aminoglycoside antibiotics. Additionally, Professor Jing-Ke Weng, the Inaugural Director of the Institute for Plant-Human Interface (IPHI), captivated the audience with his lab’s innovative work on medicinal synthetic biology, harnessing the power of plant-specialized metabolism.

Aside from the presentations, ASBMB organized various workshops, networking events, and talks focusing on professional development and recent advancements in biomedical research. A women’s networking dinner featured a panel discussion led by women from various stages of scientific careers, emphasizing the concept of work-life integration over balance and fostering engaging conversations among attendees. Attendees also had the opportunity to delve into interest group topics such as novel mechanisms of mitochondria metabolism and microbial communication signaling. Scientific communication was also a prominent theme, offering attendees valuable insights into effective ways to disseminate their research findings.

Did you miss out on #DiscoverBMB this year? Fear not! Mark your calendars for #DiscoverBMB 2025, slated for April 12-15 in Chicago, IL. Students keen on presenting their research should connect with the Biochemistry Club ([email protected]) to stay updated on deadlines and details, typically announced in September. Join us for another exciting opportunity to showcase your work and connect with fellow researchers in biochemistry and molecular biology!

See y’all there!

Photos provided by Kirsten Fertuck, Mary Jo Ondrechen, Diana Turrieta, Jill Zerkowski