Students presenting research

Pipers Win Judges’ Choice Award at UG Research Symposium

At this year’s Winchell Undergraduate Research Symposium, Lois Campbell, Mirnesa Delic, and Finn Melchior received a Judges’ Choice Award for their poster presentation, Effects of Mutation P126E and P126R in Watermelon Glyoxysomal Malate Dehydrogenase (WGMDH).

The Winchell Undergraduate Research Symposium is an annual Minnesota Academy of Science forum intended to help prepare undergraduate students to enter STEM fields. During the forum, undergraduate students have the opportunity to showcase their scientific research and receive comments from scientists as well as students from other universities. In addition, the forum also provides students with opportunities to network with STEM professionals.

Campbell, Delic and Melchior were evaluated on several key academic presentation criteria, which included the following:

  • Did their abstract contain a relevant summary of the research background, hypothesis, methods, results, and conclusions?
  • Was their research question clearly stated?
  • Was their Experimental Design clearly stated, logical, and related to the hypothesis?
  • Did their poster have a logical layout with all the relevant information in sequential order?
  • Did they clearly and accurately summarize their research?
  • Did they clearly understand the judges’ questions and answer them coherently?
  • Were they able to clearly articulate their growth as a researcher and discuss the skills that they developed?

Their research looked at the enzyme MDH, which is in the citric acid cycle and is integral to acquiring energy from nutrients. As MDH converts malate to oxaloacetate, it could cause a high specific enzyme activity rate and lead to ischemia stress in the brain. Their aim was then to identify how P126 mutations in watermelon glyoxysomal malate dehydrogenase (WgMDH) would affect the turnover rate and the special enzyme activity of the MDH.

Based on that knowledge, they made two hypotheses:

  1. The P126E mutation in WgMDH will lower the specific enzymatic activity and turnover number compared to that of the wild type due to steric hindrance and, additionally, the negative charge on the carboxylic acid that can repel the negatively charged malate.
  2. The P126R mutation will have lower specific activity and turnover number than that of the P126E mutation, as the P126R will similarly cause steric hindrance and, additionally, introduce a positively charged amino acid that has not been seen in position 126 across the species that were studied.

Their study was able to support their hypotheses, and their data for the comparison was statistically significant.