A Christian College of the Liberal Arts & Sciences

2007 Research

As part of the Summer Research Institute program, Houghton students and faculty collaborated in the summer of 2007 in the following areas:

  • Four students worked with Assistant Professor of Physics Brandon Hoffman at Cornell University on a collaborative research project with Cornell Professor Shefford Baker and the Cornell Center for Materials Research. This group performed electron backscattering experiments in order to study various nanostructure systems.
  • Professor of Physics Mark Yuly and two students collaborated with researchers from MIT, the University of Kentucky, Bogazici University (in Turkey), and Los Alamos National Laboratory on a series of nuclear physics experiments at the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center. Research focused on exploring the structure of the atomic nucleus and the behavior of the strong nuclear force – the force responsible for holding the nucleus together.
  • Associate Professor of Biology Jacqueline Crisman worked with two students to identify white blood cells expressing meprins during normal and chronic inflammatory states.
  • Jake Jacobson, professor of mathematics, and two students developed matrix solutions for systems of recursion relations when the characteristic polynomial has repeated or imaginary roots.
  • Associate Professor of Biology Matt Pelletier worked with two students to attempt to express two therapeutically-useful proteins found in plants. The first protein, relaxin, is a hormone that has been used to treat patients with scleroderma, a disease characterized by thickening and hardening of the skin. The second protein they hoped to produce is pre-thrombin 2, a precursor to thrombin, and an important protease that promotes blood coagulation.  
  • Mengyang Li, assistant professor of chemistry, working with one student, continued infrared spectroscopic studies of Langmuir monolayers of fatty acids at the air-water interface, to understand the vibrations of these molecules at this special environment - oriented at the interface – in comparison with the molecular vibrations in the bulk environment where the molecules are randomly oriented. They also compared the molecular vibrations of fatty acids with those of fatty alcohols, at the air-water interface, to see the influence of molecular structure and interactions on the vibrations.
  • The 2007 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to two American scientists, Andrew Fire and Craig Mello, for their discovery of a mechanism that can “silence” a specific gene. This mechanism, RNA interference, opened the door for new types of treatment for many diseases such as cancer and AIDS by knocking down expression of disease-causing genes. Small interfering RNA (siRNA) is involved in the RNA interference pathway. Wei Hu, associate professor of mathematics and computer science, and two students used machine learning, which is one area of research in computer science, to create better rules for effective siRNA design.
  • Professor of Biology Jim Wolfe and two students investigated the mechanisms which determine the water quality and basic ecology of Star Lake. Star Lake is 220 acres in size, up to 70 feet deep, and is one of a limited number of perched, seepage, kettle lakes in the Adirondacks. The lake has been known for its excellent water quality and its excellent fishery (lake trout, Atlantic salmon, brown trout, small-mouth bass). Research conducted will attempt to find what the nutrient levels (specifically phosphorus and nitrogen) are in the lake and how would they change with more human impact. Additionally this group examined the food chain, going from phytoplankton to zooplankton to fish.