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February 8, 2010

CCNY Junior Luisirene Hernández Receives Travel Grant

Junior Luisirene Hernández and Professor Marco Ceruso review computer-generated protein structural transition simulations.

Photo: Junior Luisirene Hernández and Professor Marco Ceruso review computer-generated protein structural transition simulations.

One of 13 Minority Students to Present Poster at Biophysical Society Annual Meeting in San Francisco

Luisirene Hernández, a junior majoring in biochemistry at The City College of New York (CCNY), is one of 13 students nationwide selected to receive a Minority Travel Award to attend the Biophysical Society’s 54th Annual Meeting in San Francisco. During the meeting, February 20 – 24, she will present a poster “Obtaining Functionally Relevant Protein Structural Transitions Using a Combined Physics/Structure-Based Coarse Grained Model,” and be honored at a reception February 20.

Working in the lab of Dr. Marco Ceruso, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Ms. Hernández investigated the conditions under which a computer simulation technique called ELNEDIN could more readily identify functionally relevant directions of conformational change in large protein structures.

ELNEDIN, which was developed by Professor Ceruso and colleagues in the the Netherlands, combines an elastic network with a physics-based coarse-grained force field. She also investigated how modifying the topology of the elastic network affects the dynamic behavior of ELNEDIN models.

The thrust of the research is to study how well conformational changes associated with the function of proteins can be reproduced, Professor Ceruso explained. Noting that coarse-grained models have limitations, he pointed out that “Luisirene’s research tries to understand the comfort zone within which the models can predict these changes reliably.”

Ms. Hernández, who was born in New York and attended high school in the Dominican Republic, said she joined Professor Ceruso’s lab two years ago because his research was “different from what everyone else was doing.” The lab develops new tools for accurately modeling and simulating very large macromolecular assemblies in realistic environments. Its current focus is on developing coarse-grained models for various bio-molecules including sugars, proteins and DNA.

In addition to her work in Professor Ceruso’s lab, Ms. Hernández, who has a 3.7 G.P.A., participates in CCNY’s CCAPP (City College Academy for Professional Preparation) and MARC/RISE (Minority Access and Research Career/Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement) programs. After graduation, her goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience.

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