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05-03-2016

Clarkson University Chemistry Student Earns Travel Award to Present Research on Proteins

Millions of people suffer from lower back pain for a variety of reasons, and Clarkson University chemistry student Willem Duckworth '18 hopes to identify therapeutic proteins that will allow patients to find pain relief sooner than before.

Darie Lab Spring 2016The student from Woodbury, Conn., has earned a travel award from the American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) to present at the international conference in June in San Antonio, Texas.

Duckworth works with Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biomolecular Science Costel C. Darie to examine samples of bovine vertebral discs for potential biomarkers for lower back pain. He said the proteins in the samples are similar to ones found in humans and can be used to help treat back pain.

"We're looking at the major causes of back pain and how we can use these biomarkers to identify and treat back pain earlier," he said. "The earlier you catch it, the better."

This collaborative project includes Bayard and Virginia Clarkson Endowed Chair and Professor of Biology Thomas Lufkin and Assistant Professor of Biology Petra Kraus, as well as Darie. The project on lower back pain is investigated from many angles in Lufkin and Kraus’s lab, while the work conducted in Darie’s lab focuses solely on proteins and proteomics.

This project was initiated by biology honors student Ashley Brisbin '16 and is now continued by Duckworth.

Two graduate students in Darie's lab also have received travel stipends to attend the ASMS conference.

Chemistry doctoral student Devika Channaveerappa, of Bangalore, India, is researching breast cancer cell biomarkers with a focus on the jumping translocation breakpoint (JTB) protein. Channaveerappa said not much research has been done on this protein and its function, so she is studying why the JTB protein has been found to be overexpressed in some cancers.

Chemistry doctoral student Kelly Wormwood of Lowville, N.Y., is researching protein biomarkers for neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders and Smith-Lemli-Optiz syndrome, which is caused by a deficient cholesterol production. Because autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed only behaviorally now, protein biomarker test would improve the accuracy of diagnosis.

ASMS membership includes more than 8,500 scientists from academic, industrial and governmental laboratories, who are involved in research and development of mass spectrometry and allied topics. The annual conference is attended by more than 6,500 scientists, and approximately 3,000 papers are presented as posters and talks.

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, New York, Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: From left to right, Clarkson University chemistry doctoral student Devika Channaveerappa of Bangalore, India; chemistry student Willem Duckworth '18 of Woodbury, Conn.; and chemistry doctoral student Kelly Wormwood of Lowville, N.Y., meet in the lab of Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biomolecular Science Costel Darie.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/darielab-spring2016.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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