Chemistry Student Presents at Summer Symposium

On August 5, 2014 by Grad Forum

molly_thumbnailMolly Croteau, a fifth-year graduate student in the Department of Chemistry under the guidance of Professor Dean Wilcox, recently went to the 33rd Summer Symposium in Molecular Biology, “Frontiers in Metallobiochemistry III,” held at Pennsylvania State University.

The conference was three days long and filled with presentations and posters from the field of metallobiochemistry, a subset of biochemistry that focuses specifically on proteins that contain metal atoms. Croteau presented a poster based on the work she has been doing for the past four years, entitled “Redox Coordination Thermodynamics: Validating the Method with Pseudomonas aeruginosa Azurin.” In her research, Croteau seeks to develop a new method to study the changing of metals in proteins.  “An example of a metal changing is a rusting car bumper,” explains Croteau. “The rust is the iron metal in the bumper reacting with water and air to change from one state to another.” Croteau adds, “Measuring this change is a difficult task.”  This is important work as her method can be used by others also asking questions about metal oxidation and reduction in proteins. During the poster sessions, which were held on two of the three nights of the conference, Croteau had the opportunity to interact with many other scholars in the field and discuss possible collaborations.

In addition to her poster presentation, Croteau recently published “Metal Coordination and Isomerization of a Hydrazone Switch” in the online journal ChemPlusChem based on a project she is collaborating on with Professor Ivan Aprahamian’s lab at Dartmouth. Croteau’s part of the project is to “measure the heats of the reactions of different metals binding to a molecular switch that the Aprahamian lab has developed.” A molecular switch is a small molecule that switches between two or more states in response to external stimuli. While Croteau has experience working with proteins in aqueous solutions, for this project she had to learn about working with small molecules in a nonaqueous solution, which ultimately expanded her skill set. These small molecules can be used as sensors.

Croteau has not always wanted to be a chemist, and distinctly remembers telling her high school junior year chemistry teacher that “she did not want to do chemistry.” After taking AP chemistry, though, her mind began to change. When she finally had to choose a college and a major, she selected between Spanish and chemistry, and ultimately chose chemistry. Following graduate school, Croteau is planning to pursue a career in the biotech industry, possibly right here in the Upper Valley.

Congratulations to Croteau on her presentation and publication!

by Britney Tappen

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