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Slade’s Research, Grant Featured

Posted on Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Kristin Slade was recently featured in the Finger Lakes Times for research she is conducting with funding from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement.

The article notes, "Scientists may come a little closer to understanding diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's thanks to a Hobart and William Smith Colleges professor."

It explains, "Slade's grant will allow her to look at mitochondria, the incredibly tiny, threadlike structures made of complex protein molecules encapsulated within their own membrane and located within human cells. However, rather than study them in the classic test-tube method, Slade plans to conduct her research in a more life-like way.

"Most biochemistry research consists of test tubes and water-based solutions, but for mitochondria, that method creates an environment quite different from where they are actually found."

Explaining the viscosity of cells is more like a raw egg than the watery solution in a test-tube, Slade is quoted: "It turns out that our cells really aren't like that. We should be using basically Jell-O to do this experiment."

Slade earned her B.S. from the University of Richmond and her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, with the dissertation "Protein Diffusion in Escherichia coli." She also served as a teaching and research postdoctoral fellow in molecular biology at Claremont Colleges in California, and is the recipient of several fellowships and has contributed to nearly a dozen publications.

In the photo above Assistant Professor of Chemistry Kristin Slade (left) works with a student in her lab.

The full article follows.


Finger Lakes Times
HWS prof wins grant for research

Heather Swanson • October 18, 2012

GENEVA - Scientists may come a little closer to understanding diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's thanks to a Hobart and William Smith Colleges professor.

Kristin Slade, assistant professor of chemistry at HWS, will spend the next two years researching mitochondria with help from her students. A $35,000 grant from Research Corporation for Science Advancement made it possible.

The grant marks Slade's first as a professor - she has been at HWS just two years - though she received a number of fellowships as a graduate student. Slade studied at the University of North Carolina and Claremont Colleges before joining the HWS chemistry department.

While excited about the opportunity, Slade added that securing funding can be tricky at an undergraduate teaching institution, since most grants target research institutions. The competition is steep for the few that do exist, she said.

Slade's grant will allow her to look at mitochondria, the incredibly tiny, threadlike structures made of complex protein molecules encapsulated within their own membrane and located within human cells. However, rather than study them in the classic test-tube method, Slade plans to conduct her research in a more life-like way.

Most biochemistry research consists of test tubes and water-based solutions, but for mitochondria, that method creates an environment quite different from where they are actually found.

"It turns out that our cells really aren't like that," she said, explaining cells are in fact more viscous, rather like a raw egg. "We should be using basically Jell-O to do this experiment."

One of the things Slade will be looking at is how that change in environment affects the data.

In some ways, it can be compared to standing in a crowded elevator, as opposed to standing alone in an elevator, she noted: Alone, people tend to relax and spread out; surrounded by others, people may fold their arms inward and attempt to take up less space.

"One of the applications is basically understanding metabolism," she said, explaining the speed at which things happen in the human body is affected by the crowded conditions.

The work could have implications for a wide variety of diseases, according to Slade. When the crowded enzymes take different forms, they may not fold correctly.

Conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are characterized by the clumping together of enzymes, she said.

Slade is not the first to realize the potential importance. Her own graduate advisor conducted similar research.

The grant will allow Slade two years of research with the assistance of students.

Slade received her RCSA award under the foundation's Cottrell College Science program. It was created in the early 1970s to promote basic research as a component of undergraduate education at the nation's public and private small colleges and universities.

During the past 15 years, the Cottrell College Science Awards, which are reviewed by a panel of top scientists, have supported the research work of about 1,300 early career scientists in 400 institutions.

"These grants provide funds and encouragement for young professors to pursue their research in a collaborative setting, while at the same time foster the participation of their students in real-world research projects," said James Gentile, RCSA president and chief executive officer, in a press release. "It is a highly effective way to help young scientists just starting out, as well as to inspire the next generation of students to enter America's scientific workforce."

 

 


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