Kristen Baker views some of her study subjects tobacco
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Kristen Baker views some of her study subjects, tobacco hornworms.

May 7, 2010
Kristen Baker views some of her study subjects, tobacco hornworms.

More About this Image With support of a grant from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, Ohio University junior Kristen Baker studies the role a key enzyme plays in the reproductive process of the tobacco hornworm.

Baker and her research advisor Dr. Frank Horodyski, associate professor of molecular biology, are studying how an unusual enzyme called JH Diolkinase acts in degrading juvenile hormone, an agent that left intact, will keep the green-skinned worm young. The hornworm must mature in order to reproduce but the enzyme prevents the hormone from working properly and metamorphosis occurs.

Baker's job has been to determine the enzyme's full DNA sequence. She began with a single sample containing a partial amino acid sequence of the enzyme. Next, she expressed the original sample into bacterial colonies to obtain multiple DNA samples, then performed a number of tests. Once complete, DNA sequencing was performed on a concentrated DNA sample. The results were successful: a computer report indicating she had found a partial DNA sequence.

REU program grants make it possible for students like Kristen to join research projects in the summer, giving them first-hand experience at how basic research is carried out and allowing them to contribute consequentially.

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