All of the biochemistry faculty are research and grant active and involve undergraduate students in their research programs. Faculty research interests include synthetic chemistry, analytical chemistry, computational chemistry, the chemistry and pharmacology of alcohol, enzyme kinetics, microbiology, pathogenicity, protein interactions, gene expression, and development.


Interactions of Pathogen Agrobacterium vitis

“I am interested in understanding the interactions between the pathogenic bacterium, Agrobacterium vitis, and its host plant, grape. In particular, I am interested in learning as much as possible about the infection process, such that genetic engineering could be used to induce a defense response in grape upon contact with A. vitis, thus protecting the grape from infection.”


Synthesis and Characterization of Novel Molecular Wire Candidates

“Research in my group is directed toward the synthesis and characterization of inorganic molecular wire candidates. These materials may find applications in the molecular electronics industry where they could some day be used to replace the silicon chip technology currently found in computers. It is well known that materials that contain metals and/or aromatic rings are able to conduct electricity. My research group has been investigating how the construction of materials that contain large aromatic terpyridine groups held together with Ru, Fe, or Os metal centers behave. We are investigating the preparation of a number of small molecular wire candidates that can be characterized by multinuclear NMR, IR, mass spectrometry, elemental analysis, and electrochemistry.”


Development of the Nervous System

“The aim of my research is to investigate the role of transcriptional regulation on the development of the nervous system, with a particular focus on the visual system. Our understanding of the regulation of developmental events has been greatly enhanced by the discovery of genetic factors and the ability to experimentally test their functions during embryogenesis.”


Synthetic Methods for Masking and Accessing Biologically Relevant Functional Groups and Compounds

Students in our group develop methods for masking and revealing functional groups in potential pharmaceutical compounds. The goal is to generate molecules with reactivities that can be altered after they enter living cells. Students also synthesize potential anticancer chemotherapeutics using synthetic methodology developed in the Miller laboratory. Research in our group is performed collaboratively, with students and mentor working together. As training progresses and students learn the techniques involved, students gain confidence in themselves and each other while also becoming more independent.


Anti-cancer research 

My major area of research involves developing anti-cancer agents, which are designed in collaboration with HWS organic chemist, Prof. Erin Pelkey. The biological results allow us to determine what structural requirements are important for making an effective compound, and we use this information to refine the molecules for increased potency. We have identified numerous promising compounds, and we have discovered that they inhibit tubulin polymerization, which is an important target for blocking growth of cancer cells.


Developing New Synthetic Methods in Heterocyclic Chemistry

“The objective of this research is to design and develop new synthetic methods that can be utilized in the preparation of nitrogen heterocycles with demonstrated biological activity (anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-HIV, etc). The utility of these methods will be evaluated through their application to the synthesis of staurosporinone, heterocyclic analogs of staurosporinone, 3-pyrrolin-2-one analogs of Vioxx, and the aristolactam alkaloids. Staurosporinone is a potent inhibitor of protein kinase C (potential anti-cancer agent) and an important building block used in the synthesis of the indolocarbazole alkaloids.”


Macromolecular Crowding and its Implication on Enzyme Kinetics Chromatin Modifications

“The interior of cells consists of a heterogeneous mixture of macromolecules that are tens to hundreds of times more concentrated than the dilute conditions used in most in vitro studies. Since two structures cannot occupy the same region of space, a macromolecule will decrease the volume available to other macromolecules in the same solution. This steric exclusion of volume changes thermodynamic activities of molecules, slows diffusion, alters protein chemistry, and consequently has significant ramifications for cellular function. I am interested in how the densely packed interior of cells affects enzyme kinetics. More specifically, my focus involves enzymes that alter DNA structure in order to control gene transcription, because this has downstream implications in aging and many human diseases including cancer. Yet, even at fundamental level of understanding the basic science, many compelling questions arise: Do crowded cellular conditions enhance or reduce the rate of reactions? Are the effects of crowding enzyme specific,or are general trends observed? Do the crowded conditions of the nucleus help regulate gene expression and thus cellular function by controlling enzyme kinetics? I will work with students via chemical, analytical and biological techniques to address these questions. Due to the lack of methods currently available for quantifying kinetics inside cells, my work focuses on creating controlled in vitro environments containing crowding agents that mimic intracellular conditions.”


Most of our biochemistry majors become actively engaged in research during their academic careers either during the semester or during the summer. Approximately 12-15 students do research on campus each summer with biochemistry faculty and another 20-25 students typically do research during the academic school year. Some students start doing research during their first year. Students interested in pursuing careers in medicine also have access to clinical internships, skill training and direct patient care experiences through a special partnership with Finger Lakes Health, a local health system with 75 staff physicians and a broad range of primary and specialty services located just one mile from campus. A list of students and their current and recent research projects is found below:

  • Jadon N. Q. Layne ’25 (Miller): Toward the Synthesis of a Disulfide-Protected Latent Thioester
  • Marlayna DiFante ’24 (de Denus): Synthesis and Characterization of Molecular Wire
  • Taylor Coburn ’23 (Pelkey): The Synthesis of Designed Furanones with Antitubulin Activity
  • Rielly J. Harrison ’23 (Miller): Synthesis, Purification, and Applications of Disulfide-Protected Latent Thioesters
  • Maxwell Y. Horton ’23 (Miller): Toward the Synthesis of Latent Thioester Precursors for Masked Cell Invasion Justin Miller, Adviser
  • Haley E. Sax ’23 (Miller): Solid-Phase Synthesis and Further Reactions of Latent Thioester Linked Peptides and Potential HDAC Inhibitors 
  • Jonah H. Silverman ’23 (Miller): Toward the Synthesis of Latent Thioester Precursors for Masked Cell Invasion
  • Blake Evans ’22 (Pelkey): The Synthesis of Antitubulin Furanone Heterocycles
  • Grace Faulkner ’22 (Pelkey): The Synthesis of Antitubulin Furanone Heterocycles
  • Rebecca Huss ’22 (Pelkey): Exploring Azetidine Electrophiles
  • Joshua J. P. Marek ’22 (Miller): Potential Anticancer Depsipeptidic HDAC Inhibitors Accessed via an Optimized Solid-Phase Synthetic Approach
  • Maegan Manning ’22 (Mowery): Biological Evaluation of 3-Aryl-4-Indolylfuranonesas Potential Anti-Cancer Agents
  • Matt McNulty ’22 (Mowery):Assessing Unique Contact Residues of Chemotaxis-like Proteins in an Escherichia coli model
  • Christina Mitrow ’22 (Pelkey): Exploring Azetidine Electrophiles
  • Kaitlyn M. Mullin ’22 (Miller): Potential Anticancer Depsipeptidic HDAC Inhibitors Accessed via an Optimized Solid-Phase Synthetic Approach
  • Jack Russo ’22 (Pelkey): Developing a New Synthesis of Homotryptamines using Azetidine Electrophiles
  • Lily G. Walker ’22 (Miller): Applications of Disulfide-Protected Latent Thioesters 
  • Molly Dexter ’21 (Pelkey): Synthesis and Reactions of Tetronic Acid Derivatives
  • Sarah A. Lewicki ’21 (Miller): Optimizing the Solid-Phase Synthesis of Xyzidepsin and Unmasking Latent Thioesters under Hydrophobic-Compatible Conditions
  • Maddie Filkorn ‘21(Pelkey): Synthesis and Reactions of Heterocyclic Enaminones
  • Mackenzie Howie ’21 (Mowery): Developing testing assays for potential antibiotic compounds
  • Spencer Tretter ’21 (Pelkey): Synthesis and Reactions of Heterocyclic Enaminones
  • Brooke Boyer ’20 (Pelkey): The Synthesis of Antitubulin Furanone Heterocycles
  • Chelsea T. Herr ’20 (Miller): Optimizing the Solid-Phase Synthesis of Xyzidepsin and Characterization of Synthetic Intermediates en route to Xyzidepsin
  • Brianna Hurysz ’20 (Mowery): Determining anti-cancer potential of highly potent staurosporine analog: PY-407-C
  • Roslyn Patel ’20 (Pelkey): The Synthesis of Antitubulin Furanone Heterocycles
  • Kelsey Pierce ’20 (Mowery): Examining anticancer potential of furanone heterocyclic compounds
  • Allie Seminer ’20 (Pelkey): The Synthesis of Antitubulin Furanone Heterocycles
  • Kaitlynn Sockett ’20 (Pelkey): The Synthesis of Novel 3,4-Bisindole Furanone Analogs of Staurosporine
  • Rabiah B. Fresco ’19 (Miller): Optimizing the Solid-Phase Synthesis of Xyzidepsin
  • Andrew Hermann ’19 (Mowery): Assessing anti-cancer potential of newly synthesized staurosporine analogs containing a 3-furan-2-one group
  • Peter A. Banks ’18 (Miller): Development of the Synthesis and Purification of Precursors for Potential Anticancer Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors 
  • Megan Lafferty ’18 (Mowery): Biological Evaluation of Simplified Analogs of Protein Kinase C Inhibitor Staurosporine
  • Alvin Randal ’18 (Mowery): Cancer metastasis assay development
  • Sydney H. Smilen ’18 (Miller): Developing HPLC Purification Methods for Precursors of Potential Anticancer Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors 
  • Emily M. Smith ’18 (Miller): A Semester-Long Solid-Phase Synthesis Laboratory that Complements Second-Semester Organic Coursework Targeting Novel, Potential Anticancer Molecules
  • Adonis A. Cruz ’17 (Miller): Purification and Analysis of FK228 Analogs by Column Chromatography and NMR Analysis
  • Ryan T. Davison ’17 (Miller): Integrating LCMS Analysis and Purification into the Synthesis of Depsipeptidic Potential Anticancer Chemotherapeutics 
  • Dignarius Garcia ’17 (Mowery): Assay development: microbiome and magnetotaxis
  • Jerlin Garo ’17 (Mowery): Assessing cancer cell migration
  • Evan M. Howard ’17 (Miller): An Important Intermediate for the Synthesis of Spiruchostatin A
  • Vernon E. Lawson ’17 (Miller): Toward Depsipeptidic Potential Anticancer Compounds Using Latent Thioester Solid-Phase Synthesis
  • Namita Neerukonda ’17 (Mowery):Cytotoxicity Evaluation of Simplified Analogs ofProtein Kinase C Inhibitor Staurosporine
  • Melanie K. Patterson ’17 (Miller): Large-Scale Synthesis of Spiruchostatin A Building Blocks
  • Grace E. Hutton ’16 (Miller): New Reaction Conditions for Latent Thioester Chemoselective Ligation
  • Fatima Saravia ’16 (Mowery): Examining the Function of Unique Bacterial Chemotaxis Residues