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Organic Biological Chemistry

at Haverford College


Our Focus

We study how nature makes molecules that play important roles in our lives (such as antibiotics, anti-cancer agents, and biofuels). The key focus of our work lies in understanding the evolution of biosynthetic gene clusters and exploring the how the encoded proteins work together as a team to assemble structurally complex, bioactive molecules.


Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

Our team is fully committed to creating and maintaining a diverse, inclusive, and equitable learning environment within our laboratory, department, and Haverford College Community. We firmly believe that the pursuit of science should be available and accessible to all people without prejudice or discrimination. Details on our current antiracism work and a copy of our co-created statement on diversity and inclusion can be found here.


Spring 2021 Lab Group

Thank You To Our Sources of Funding!

Recent Publications

  • Type II polyketide synthases (PKSs) are protein assemblies, encoded by biosynthetic gene clusters in microorganisms, that manufacture structurally complex and pharmacologically relevant molecules. Acyl carrier proteins (ACPs) play a central role in biosynthesis by shuttling malonyl-based building blocks and polyketide intermediates to catalytic partners for chemical transformations. Because ACPs serve as central hubs in type II PKSs, they can also represent roadblocks to successfully engineering…
  • Enzyme assemblies such as type II polyketide synthases (PKSs) produce a wide array of bioactive secondary metabolites. While the molecules produced by type II PKSs have found remarkable clinical success, the biosynthetic prowess of these enzymes has been stymied by 1) the inability to reconstitute the bioactivity of the minimal PKS enzymes in vitro and 2) limited exploration of type II PKSs from diverse phyla. To begin filling this unmet need, we expressed, purified, and characterized the…
  • The ability to produce new molecules of potential pharmaceutical relevance via combinatorial biosynthesis hinges on improving our understanding of acyl-carrier protein (ACP)-protein interactions. However, the weak and transient nature of these interactions makes them difficult to study using traditional spectroscopic approaches. Herein we report that converting the terminal thiol of the E. coli ACP 4'-phosphopantetheine arm into a mixed disulfide with 2-nitro-5-thiobenzoate ion (TNB^(-))…
  • Fueled by the explosion of (meta)genomic data, genome mining of specialized metabolites has become a major technology for drug discovery and studying microbiome ecology. In these efforts, computational tools like antiSMASH have played a central role through the analysis of Biosynthetic Gene Clusters (BGCs). Thousands of candidate BGCs from microbial genomes have been identified and stored in public databases. Interpreting the function and novelty of these predicted BGCs requires comparison with…
  • The successful engineering of biosynthetic pathways hinges on understanding the factors that influence acyl carrier protein (ACP) stability and function. The stability and structure of ACPs can be influenced by the presence of divalent cations, but how this relates to primary sequence remains poorly understood. As part of a course-based undergraduate research experience, we investigated the thermostability of type II polyketide synthase (PKS) ACPs. We observed an approximate 40 °C range in the…
  • Engineering microbial biosynthetic pathways represents a compelling route to gain access to expanded chemical diversity. Carrier proteins (CPs) play a central role in biosynthesis, but the fast motions of CPs make their conformational dynamics difficult to capture using traditional spectroscopic approaches. Here we present a low-resource method to directly reveal carrier protein-substrate interactions. Chemoenzymatic loading of commercially available, alkyne-containing substrates onto CPs…
  • Navigating scientific challenges, persevering through difficulties, and coping with failure are considered hallmarks of a successful scientist. However, relatively few studies investigate how undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students develop these skills and dispositions or how instructors can facilitate this development in undergraduate STEM learning contexts. This is a critical gap, because the unique cultures and practices found in STEM classrooms are…
  • Nonribosomal peptide biosynthesis is a complex enzymatic assembly responsible for producing a great diversity of bioactive peptide natural products. Due to the recurring arrangement of catalytic domains within these machineries, great interest has been shown in reengineering these pathways to produce novel, designer peptide products. However, in order to realize such ambitions, it is first necessary to develop a comprehensive understanding of the selectivity, mechanisms, and structure of these…
  • Scientific outreach efforts traditionally involve formally trained scientists teaching the general public about the methods, significance, and excitement of science. We recently experimented with an alternative "symbiotic outreach" model that prioritizes building a reciprocal relationship between formally trained and "outsider" scientists to facilitate active two-way communication. Herein, we present the results of our outreach effort involving college students and adults with intellectual and…
  • Microorganisms utilize complex enzymatic pathways to biosynthesize structurally complex and pharmacologically relevant molecules. These pathways are encoded by gene clusters and are found in a diverse set of organisms. The Minimum Information about a Biosynthetic Gene cluster repository facilitates standardized and centralized storage of experimental data on these gene clusters and their molecular products, by utilizing user-submitted data to translate scientific discoveries into a format that…
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