More about the Graduate Program
Application is available here. All supporting materials and applications should be sent directly to:
Office of Graduate Studies
University of Puerto Rico
Call Box 9000 Mayagüez, PR 00681-9000
Josiris Rodriguez (Left)
Thanks to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation I successfully concluded my doctoral internship this year. The Sloan program helped me advance my PhD research titled: Crystallization of novel proteins from the Lucinidae family of clams. My host institution was Hauptman Woodward Medical Research Institute at Buffalo, NY under the supervision of Dr. Eddie Snell and Dr. William Bauer.
The main protein for my research is a cysteine rich protein (CRP) with unknown functionality and unknown structure. Considering the fact that clams from Lucinidae family lives in symbiosis, CRP may have interactions with clam’s hemeproteins to assist in the completion of the symbiotic cycle. CRP may facilitate hydrogen sulfide transport in vivo interacting specifically with hemeproteins (Hb). To address these issues, this project aimed to study CRP in order to determine a structural model of CRP/HbI to investigate function of CRP and the mechanism of processing H2S. This was structured in three specific aims:
Aim I:obtain single crystals of CRP and/or CRP-HbI complex
Aim II: obtain X-ray diffraction of CRP and/or CRP-HbI crystals
Aim III: Solve structure and determine structural model for CRP-HbI complex
Thanks to Sloan Foundation support up to this point, I achieved the first two aims. The third aim is a work in progress this semester and the data obtained will be soon submitted for publishing. This is the first structural information for this protein. This project was also partially supported by BioXFEL.
Ph.D. candidate Jorge Castellanos truly exemplifies the goals of our program. Jorge is a dedicated researcher with a strong fundamental background and is developing the skills to apply this knowledge.
Jorge recently excelled in the I-Corps training offered by the Georgia Tech Venture Labs held from January – March 2015, which was organized by Grupo Guayacan and the Puerto Rico Science Research and Technology Trust (PR-STRT). The I-Corps program is an extremely demanding and thorough course that connects researchers with entrepreneurial and business communities to create a stronger ecosystem for innovation. I-corps seeks to transform scientific and engineering discoveries into useful products and services.
Jorge presented his group’s idea for a sensor that could potentially be applied to biological substances several times during the course. The group comprised Dr. Nilka M. Rivera, PhD graduate student José Robles and Dr. Samuel P. Hernández. Jorge obtained his B.S. in Biomolecular Science with a concentration in Chemistry from Polytechnic Institute of New York University in 2010 and came to our University as an REU student in 2009. Jorge is performing his Ph.D research in Dr. Samuel P. Hernández lab in sensors development for biologicals detection with an emphasis on laser textured surfaces that can be used to enhance spectroscopic signals at trace quantities.
Jorge recently indicated: “The I-Corps program was an exemplary and unique course that brought together both research and business. I felt I had an advantage coming out of the short but rigorous course since I learned the customer discovery method which will keep you grounded until you can truly identify who’s in need of your product before it’s even developed and made tangible. This is especially important for scientists who normally find applications of their research but don’t get to explore its commercialization potential. Understanding where the product need lies and who truly requires it greatly improves its likelihood for implementation and commercial success. We were challenged to “go out there, get out of the building” and learn as much about our customer as possible. Since our product idea served the health industry, we interviewed the general public starting with the student body at UPRM, from there we went on to interview doctors and cancer patients at the American Cancer Society (ACS) office in Mayaguez. With each interview we could rule out who wasn’t as much in need of our product and even at the end of the program we had not identified the customer. This was a crucial success in that it spared us the time and wasted effort that would’ve been had we focused on our initial target customers. Following the business model canvas really simplified the process and is an excellent starting point for entrepreneurs. I feel all students involved in research, especially graduate students from all STEM fields would benefit from this course immensely and as such introducing it into our Chemistry department will raise our level of competence worldwide.”
José A. Carmona-Negrón
Position: PhD Candidate in Applied Chemistry
Research area: Bioinorganic Chemistry
Mentor: Dr. Enrique Meléndez
The aim of my doctoral project is to synthesize, characterize, and apply a series of novel metallocene complexes coupled to estrogen hormones for Estrogen Receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer treatment. The development of novel organometallic drugs is a growing area of interest that requires fundamental research of the organometallic complex, development of its synthetic methodology and its application to biological system as an interdisciplinary discipline. X-ray diffraction (XRD) technique has been employed efficiently to determine the structures, but also, to perform structural studies and rational-drug design of small molecules. Given the importance of the information provided by this technique to my doctoral project, training in the principles in collecting and processing small molecule X-ray diffraction crystallographic data was performed as part of my doctorate practicum at University of California, San Diego, CA.
During my time at Center of Small Molecule Crystallography at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), under the guidance of the world-wide recognized crystallographer Dr. Arnold L. Rheingold, I had the opportunity to acquire experience in the analysis of structures of organic and inorganic compounds by single crystal X-ray diffraction. I successfully resolved, by the first time, a total nine crystal structures of organometallic complexes, including two different crystalline arrangement of one ferrocene complex. In addition, a new ruthenium complex crystalline arrangement not previously reported was found. It is estimated that the impact of the results obtained during the practicum will be enough to be reflected in a total of four scientific publications.
As a result of my participation in the Center of Small Molecule Crystallography at University of California, San Diego I was exposed to an academic environment of one of the highest impact nation universities. During this term I gained access to professional tutoring and mentoring in the XRD technique and was exposed to novel techniques and knowledge in the field of crystallography. In addition, two new UPRM chemistry research collaborations were created with the crystallography center.
Part of such research experience was made possible thanks to the travel financial support ($500) from the program A. P. Sloan Foundation that seeks to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise, and its representation Dr. Rodolfo Romañach. I also extend special thanks to: Dr. Enrique Meléndez, Dr. Mayra Cádiz, Dr. José Cortés and Dr. Robert Ríos for their mentoring contribution and collaborators in this project.
University of Puerto Rico
Graduate Program, Q-148
Call Box 9000
Mayagüez, PR 00681-9000
University of Puerto Rico
Chemistry Department, Q-153
259 Alfonso Valdez Blvd.
Mayagüez, PR 00681