Make The Connection

November 17, 2022

Ohio Wesleyan students Erin Pohlman ’23 and Audrey Calvin ’23 research proteins during OWU’s 10-week Summer Science Research Program. Such research helps scientists to learn more about the role of proteins in targeted therapeutics. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Power of Proteins

Ohio Wesleyan Senior’s Research Supports Goal of Becoming a Pharmacist

By Cole Hatcher

Audrey Calvin ’23

Name: Audrey Calvin ’23
Hometown: Medina, Ohio
High School: Akron Our Lady of the Elms
Majors: Chemistry and Pre-Medicine
Minor: Psychology
OWU Connection Experience: Summer Science Research Program

Calvin and Erin Pohlman ’23 of Powell, Ohio, investigate proteins in separate 10-week projects conducted under the mentorship of Kayce Tomcho, Ph.D., OWU assistant professor of Chemistry. Both seniors presented results this fall during OWU’s annual Summer Science Research Symposium.

Calvin’s project was titled “Investigating the Potential of the M3-M4 Loop of the Glycine Receptor to Act as a Cell Penetrating Peptide,” while Pohlman’s was “Characterizing the M3-M4 Loop of the Glycine Receptors Potential to Transverse the Membrane.”

“This knowledge is important because it can lead to the development of targeted therapeutics,” Calvin said. “A targeted therapeutic aims at reducing the number of adverse side effects we commonly see with medications.” 

What We Studied

“Essentially we studied how protein structure is directly related to protein function. The best way to think of this is by using the analogy of the engines in cars.

“There is a multitude of cars on the market, and each varies in its capabilities. To the average buyer, an engine looks similar between car brands, but a mechanic understands how the intricacies of the engine contribute to performance. Our body’s proteins work similarly.

“When structures vary between proteins, their differences ultimately lead to a distinct function. Our research examines the structure of the intracellular M3-M4 loop of one type of protein, the Glycine Receptor.”

My Favorite Part

“My favorite part of work was learning to become a better scientific communicator. Scientific research can produce really interesting results, but if the investigator of that science does a bad job of communicating their results, their work might not be understood or its importance might be lost.

“Dr. Tomcho spent a lot of time mentoring me on communication skills, and I have vastly improved over the course of this summer. Communication is important in so many different subject areas so I am excited to transfer these skills beyond the laboratory.” 

Lessons Learned

“This project heavily relates to the material covered in biochemistry. The material covered in that course primarily all falls under the umbrella topic of structure function relationships. In other words, how the structure of something directly relates to its function. This overarching concept is studied by looking at the major classes of biomolecules including lipids, nucleic acids, enzymes, and most helpful to this summer, proteins.

“The project this summer required a lot of time learning the background information of the protein GlyR. We were able to learn this information quicker and have a greater understanding of it because of previous experience with the biochemistry course. Lastly, many of the laboratory techniques we used were introduced in the biochem lab. This included aseptic technique, protein purification, SDS-PAGE, among others.

Our project focused on the hypothesis that the M3-M4 loop of the glycine receptor was traversing the membrane in the same way that a cell penetrating peptide (CPP) does. I spent a significant amount of time learning about CPPs this summer. They are heavily used in the pharmaceutical industry to deliver drugs into our cells. One chemotherapy drug that many people might have heard of, Methotrexate, is a medication that is delivered by a CPP mechanism. Being that my future career will be in the pharmaceutical industry, it was super cool to see how classroom material stemmed into research, which stemmed into my future career.”

Why I Chose Ohio Wesleyan

“When I toured Ohio Wesleyan, I knew it was the perfect fit for me. I was impressed with the laboratory spaces and the equipment that the chemistry department had available for me to use. The small class sizes and opportunity to get to know your professors were exactly what I was looking for in a college. Lastly, the ability to run track and cross country under the leadership of two amazing coaches was icing on the cake.”

My Plans After Graduation

“My plans after graduation include attending pharmacy school in order to get my PharmD degree. I hope to become a hospital pharmacist in the future.”