Sigma Zeta research grants awarded to students


Chris Himes and Jonathan Miller, both senior chemistry majors, were recently awarded grants of $500 each from the Sigma Zeta national office to help assist them with their research.

“You had to fill out an application,” Himes said. “You had to submit an abstract—give a basic description of what the project is about. You have to have your advisor write a small write-up as well.”

Jonathan Miller and Chris Himes, both senior chemistry majors, were recently awarded grants of $500 each from the Sigma Zeta national office to help assist them with their research. (Photo by Autumn Berry)

Himes will primarily use his funding for supplies. He is researching genetics in fruit flies.

“Basically, I’m looking at chromosomes in fruit flies,” Himes said. “DNA is packaged in different ways.  I’m looking at the effects of a certain protein that plays a role in how DNA is packaged and ultimately influences what kind of protein will be expressed.”

Kathryn Huisinga, assistant professor of biochemistry, helped inspire Himes’ project.

“We are using the computer to do some modeling of the protein we are interested in studying,” Huisinga said. “One of things we are interested in is how the DNA gets packaged in the cell.”

The grant, while helpful, only makes a small dent in the research costs.

“The grants are only $500, and in science, that doesn’t really go that far, so some of the other things he needs we will have to find other funds for,” Huisinga said.

Himes is the first student Huisinga assisted who received this research grant.

Johnathan Miller is also focusing on proteins for his project.

“I’m looking at certain proteins in the human body that cross the cell wall,” Miller said. “So there’s a protein that part of it will be inside the cell and run through the cell membrane, and the other on the outside. What I’m working on is seeing if there is a way we can simulate this on a computer, where we have a drug protein interaction, seeing if medicine interacts with this protein.”

Miller started his research a year and half ago.

“I’m just trying to see if I can figure out a way to do this on the computer,” Miller said. “Basically then, you could do it on a computer instead of doing clinical trials on people.”

Miller has plans for his research grant as well.

“I think I’m going to primarily put it towards a new software package,” Miller said.

Donghai Chen, professor of chemistry, is Miller’s mentor for this project, which came from Chen’s sabbatical research. Chen developed this method alongside a professor from Northeast Ohio Medical University.

“Jonathan is pretty much following the method we developed,” Chen said.

However, there is a difference in the research Miller is doing.

“The medicine and the protein are different from the one I did before,” Chen said.

Both Himes and Miller will present the current state of their research in late March at the Sigma Zeta National Convention at Bethel University in Saint Paul, Minnesota.


Casey Stevens is a staff writer for The Aviso AVW.

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