Arnie Phifer | July 7, 2017
Two University of Notre Dame graduate students, Enrico Speri and Yide Zhang, have been awarded the 2017 Berry Family Foundation Graduate Fellowships in Advanced Diagnostics & Therapeutics to support their exceptional and wide-ranging research programs—which touch on aspects of biology, chemistry, and engineering—over the next academic year.
Speri, a chemistry and biochemistry PhD student working in the labs of Shahriar Mobashery and Mayland Chang, is trying to tackle one of the largest global health threats today: bacterial resistance to antibiotics. In particular, he is working on two dangerous bacteria strains, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile, that infect over 330,000 people each year in the U.S. alone.
“While I was working on two families of compounds that are able to re-sensitize bacteria to antibiotics, I synthesized a series of molecules that exhibited antibacterial properties of their own, including the ability to prevent growth of both MRSA and C. difficile,” explains Speri. “This is an exciting development, as this class did not have any antibacterial activity attributed to it previously.”
“Molecular biology, biochemistry, and microbiology all play key roles in my research.”
Zhang, an electrical engineering PhD student working with Scott Howard, is developing a new type of fluorescence microscope that could advance the work of other researchers and medical personnel in a variety of fields.
“Fluorescence microscopes are great tools, but physics limits how fast, how small, and how deep of a thing we can see with them,” Zhang says. “What we are doing in this project is building a new type of fluorescence microscope that not only sees fast, small, and deep features inside of cells, but also inside of cells in living tissue—unlike other microscope techniques.”
“A next step is to make this experimental imaging platform available to collaborators, so they can use the system to advance their own basic biological and medical research.”