UH West Oʻahu student research projects advance the study of anti-cancer drugs

Bariyanga and students

From left: Rebecca Oshiro, Dr. Joseph Bariyanaga and Christine Baltazar in the UH West Oʻahu Chemistry Laboratory.

Junior Christine Baltazar and sophomore Rebecca Oshiro recently completed the first Kikaha Undergraduate Research Projects at UH West Oʻahu, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Under the direction of UH West Oʻahu Associate Professor of Chemistry Joseph Bariyanga, the students worked on undergraduate research in chemistry and will present their projects at a conference in fall 2016.

Christine Baltazar investigated the interaction of a plant chemical, mimosine, with DNA, and searched for possible mechanisms this chemical uses to bind to DNA. The chemical was recently shown to have anti-tumor properties against several types of cancers. Through her research, Baltazar learned how to analyze samples to uncover binding sites. Her project advances the understanding of how a potential cancer-fighting drug might work to defeat cancer.

As part of her research project, UH West Oʻahu sophomore Rebecca Oshiro synthesized a new platinum complex compound and analyzed this compound using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometry. The compound she created shares structural features with the most used drug in chemotherapy, cisplatin. Through her work, Oshiro joins scientists around the world in searching for efficient anti-cancer drugs that produce less side effects.

While conducting their undergraduate research projects, both Baltazar and Oshiro gained experience operating modern instruments to purify and analyze chemical compounds, and practiced advanced laboratory procedures.

UH West Oʻahu students interested in pursuing STEM-related undergraduate research this summer may apply for the Kikaha Undergraduate Research Project funded by the National Science Foundation. Participants receive a $2,000 stipend and a chance to present their research at a national conference with travel expenses paid.

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Image courtesy of Evelyn "Fenny" Cox