Skip to content

Patrick Batoon '17 (left), Jianhua Ren, Zachary Buen '16 and three scientests at the Felix Laboratory in the Netherlands.

  • Print
Science and Technology

NSF grant takes chemistry students to the Netherlands

Jan 5, 2016

University of the Pacific chemistry Professor Jianhua Ren was awarded a new grant from the National Science Foundation this fall for her research on peptides, the building blocks of proteins.

The award of nearly $27,000 will provide funding for Ren and two graduate students to perform infrared multiphoton dissociation experiments at the FELIX Facility in the Netherlands and support her ongoing research grant entitled "Conformational effects on the gas-phase acidities of biopolymers."

This won't be the first time Ren has taken students to the Netherlands to study peptides. She traveled to the facility in December with pharmacy graduate students Patrick Batoon '17 and Zachary Buen '16, both of whom studied biochemistry at Pacific as undergraduates. Ren and Batoon also made the trip in June of 2014 using a College of the Pacific Dean's travel fund and a research fund from the Office of Graduate Studies.

"Conducting experiments at the FELIX Facility enhances my research capacity and exposes students to a cutting-edge research facility and international culture," said Ren. "From my first trip with Patrick we gathered crucial preliminary data that led to the current supplemental grant."

Ren and her research team are working to develop better models for understanding the acid-base properties of proteins.

"Proteins have three-dimensional shapes called folds, and deformities in these folds can cause disease," said Ren. "For example, Alzheimer's disease is believed to be linked with misfolded proteins." All proteins have a central functional part called the active site which also has a unique fold, but the nature of this unique fold and its influence on a protein's activity is not completely understood.

"My research team tackles this problem by studying a library of peptides that have certain features resembling the active sites of proteins," said Ren. "We design and synthesize the peptides, measure the values of acidity and basicity and examine the types of folds of the peptides. The integrated results will help us understand how certain folds can be linked to special behaviors of the peptides, such as unusual acidity."

Ren's ongoing research will train a large number of undergraduate and graduate student researchers in the important area of biological mass spectrometry, preparing them for careers in the biotechnology and medical industries. She plans to return to the FELIX Facility with two more students this summer.

Join University of the Pacific on: Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn Youtube