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The Washington Research Foundation Fellowship

Nate Cermak, Biochemistry - 2008-09 WRFF

Nate Cermak. 2008 WRFF recipient. I am a Seattle native, and I am now a senior at the UW, majoring in biochemistry. My original plan upon entering college was to go into neurobiology, but while taking organic chemistry, I realized I really enjoyed making molecules. After contacting my professor at the time (Michael Gelb) about doing research, he got me started in his lab with a graduate student (Rob Oslund, my primary mentor), and I've now been working there for over 18 months. In that time, I have had a great opportunity learn about the lab's substantial interests, pick up a lot of methodology, and learn a lot about graduate school at the same time.

After I graduate from UW, I hope to apply for MD/PhD programs which will allow me to continue to study ways to improve human health, and both incorporate and expand on the skill set I have picked up in the Gelb lab.

Mentor: Michael Gelb, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Project Title: Design, synthesis and Evaluation of Secreted Phospholipase A2 Inhibitors

Abstract: Secreted phospholipases A2 are a family of enzymes which catalyze the hydrolysis of phospholipids at the sn-2 position. There is strong evidence that they are involved in inflammatory biosignaling, and they have been correlated with a number of diseases including asthma, arthritis, atherosclerosis, colorectal and prostate cancers, and others. My research in the Gelb lab in the past year has focused on designing, synthesizing, and evaluating inhibitors for a subset of the nine sPLA2s found in humans. While I have made significant progress towards this goal, I am even more excited for the coming year, where I plan to focus on three main projects. The first is to use mass spectroscopy to identify metabolites of our inhibitors in cell culture in order to evaluate the efficacy of our negative control compounds. The second project is to identify cell lines which we can use as a model system for testing our inhibitors. My third project will be to continue the fluorescent cell labeling and confocal microscopy work I began last year, in order to visually identify activity of sPLA2 activity and evaluate the cell-permeability of our inhibitors. Working in the Gelb lab has allowed me to learn at a rate far beyond that available in class about relevant, cutting edge techniques, and has given me skills I will continue to use during my graduate studies and in any future career in pharmaceuticals.