Graduate STEM Fellow Profile

Ricardo Sanchez

Project Title: IMPACT LA: Improving Minority Partnerships and Access through CISE-related Teaching
Thesis: Creation of the Cysteine Oxidation Prediction Program (COPP)
College/University: California State University, Los Angeles
Research Advisor: Dr. Jamil A. Momand
Degree Sought: Masters in Chemistry and Biochemistry
Department: Chemistry and Biochemistry
Research Focus: Biochemistry and Bioinformatics
Teaching Partner(s): Cynthia Godoy

Description of Research

Reversible cysteine thiol oxidation is a major signaling mechanism that regulates protein activities. The goal is to extend our database of oxidation sensitive protein cysteine thiols and use a preexisting algorithm as the foundation for development of a computer program that predicts redox-sensitive thiols from structure data with an accuracy of at least 80%. No computer program currently predicts this important class of modifications. The database and the program will be made available to the public on a server maintained by California State University Los Angeles. The program will receive, as input, records of protein structure data from the Protein Data Bank (PDB) by the user. The output of the program will be a display of the protein sequence with the locations of predicted sites of redox control marked. An interactive image of the protein denoting the redox-sensitive sites will be displayed. This project will ensure that reversibly oxidized thiol information is available to all protein researchers. Furthermore, we will incorporate pre-existing programs that predict sites of permanent disulfide and cysteine thiol coordination to metals. In sum, the project goals are to create a program that predicts reversible cysteine oxidation from structure input and to create a user-friendly website interface to enable on-line prediction or dissemination of databases and software.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience

As a GK-12 Fellow, I get to incorporate my research into activities that expose students to material normally not presented in the typical 6th grade learning setting. For example, I designed a math game that introduces prediction and data classification, which at the same time gets students to practice their basic math skills. The game is based on the popular game GUESS WHO, in which the goal of the game is to guess the identity of a mystery person from a pool of people by asking yes or no questions about facial features and accessories worn and then using deduction to make a prediction. Instead of people’s faces, I adapted the game to have numbers and the yes or no questions to be about the mathematical properties of the numbers. The students soon realized that math and science can be as fun as a game. During my experience as a GK-12 Fellow, the games and activities that I have been able to incorporate in to the classroom curriculum have provided me with a forum to be able to better present my research experience in a way that a broader audience can understand and engage in the scientific conversation.