Kennesaw, GA

Associate professor at Kennesaw State University earns renewal of NSF grant for DNA research

LaShaun Williams

KENNESAW, GA — Michael Van Dyke, an associate professor of biochemistry at Kennesaw State University, received a National Science Foundation grant renewal worth over $300,000 for three years, including funding to engage undergraduate researchers in the process.

His research focuses on advancing the understanding of genetic functions and specific proteins known as transcription factors. The factors can encourage or suppress specific genes throughout the life of cells and organisms.

This capability to turn specific gene expressions on or off can lead to new medical treatments or agricultural techniques.

“Identifying these proteins will provide crucial insights into the biological roles of these proteins and the pathways they regulate,” said Van Dyke. “However, much of the scientific community is more interested in our methods for studying protein-DNA interactions because these studies have applications beyond the lab, particularly genetic engineering, agriculture and medicine.”

This research uses a certain type of bacteria found in extremely warm environments that houses the protein-DNA interactions that make the study possible.

Van Dyke touted the bacteria’s endurance and prevalence, indicating that undergraduate researchers of any scientific background can conduct experiments using pipettes and test tubes in the laboratory. They can observe thousands of genetic processes in a limited sample under a controlled environment.

“This is a great experience for undergraduates to engage in the research process and learn the techniques and skills involved in science, and I welcome the opportunity to show students that pathway,” Van Dyke said.

“It’s a tribute to the undergraduate researchers who have worked in this lab. These early research experiences have given my students a leg up in the competitive market on their careers in scientific research, higher education and industry.”

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