BioPACIFIC MIP Research: SET 1 - Bioderived Materials
What is your research focus?
Bacteriophages, or “phages”, are viruses that infect bacteria and offer a potential solution to rise of antibiotic resistance through the use of phage therapy. However, some of the most-well studied phages are non-lytic and infection does not result in bacterial death, while other lytic phages are limited by their host range.Two innovations may allow M13, a well studied and commercially available phage, to overcome these barriers. First, the genome of M13 can be engineered such that additional proteins can be fused to and expressed with the g3p protein, which is responsible for binding to E. coli hosts. By expressing single-chain variable fragments (scFvs) of antibodies with the g3p protein, a variety of new antigens can be targeted by the M13 phage. Secondly, the M13 phage can be conjugated to gold nanorods, which when exposed to near-infrared light, produce heat and kill the bound bacteria. Thus, the engineering of M13 as an antibacterial agent that binds and destroys a variety of specific targets best aligns with SET 3, Functional Biomimics. Additionally, as E. coli can be genetically modified and optimized to produce phage, this embodies SET 1, Bioderived Materials.
What excites you about NSF BioPACIFIC MIP?
Our work in the Chen lab is interdisciplinary, incorporating molecular biology and materials science through the engineering of bacteriophages conjugated to gold nanorods. My background is in biochemistry and molecular biophysics, as I received my BS in Biochemistry-Molecular Biology from UCSB in 2020, but I seek to gain a better understanding of the techniques used for design and characterization of biomaterials, which I can achieve through participation in the BioPACIFC MIP Fellows Training. As an Affiliate, the training sessions and seminars would help prepare me for the BioPACIFIC MIP Summer School, which I intend to apply to in the coming months, and connect me to faculty well-aligned with my current research goals; as an alumni, I am well aware of the stellar materials research being conducted at UCSB. Finally, as a first year PhD student, I am hoping to utilize the career and personal development provided to Fellows to make the most of my graduate education. During my undergraduate studies, programs funded by CNSi and the Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships were invaluable to my development as a scientist, and I know I would not be pursuing my PhD at UCLA without them.