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Junior biochemistry major participates in Georgia Tech summer REU program

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Posted on Thursday, November 3, 2022

A Westminster College biochemistry major spent her summer researching seaweed biology in a select National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded summer research internship at Georgia Institute of Technology.  

Grace Ryser, a junior from Hubbard, Ohio, was one of 50 undergraduates who participated in the 10-week Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program that supports active research participation by undergraduate students.

Ryser studied contributors of ozone depletion such as marine macroalgae, specifically certain species of seaweed. Asparagopsis taxiformis, a species of algae that lives in tropical to warm waters, are capable of naturally synthesizing halogenated methane compounds resulting in a stress response of reactive oxygen species.

Alongside her mentor Cheyenne Phillips, a graduate student working with Dr. Amit Reddi in the chemistry department at Georgia Tech, Ryser gained a deeper understanding of seaweed enzymes and an insight into the effect of stress response on bromoform production and ozone depletion consequences they create. Together, their research made advances in seaweed biology and genetics showing that there is hope for a better oceanic future.

“My biggest lesson learned throughout this internship was time management and sterile lab practices,” said Ryser. “Working with cells can be touchy and keeping contamination low got us the results we needed.”

Ryser, who presented her research at the Georgia Institute of Technology at the conclusion of her internship, plans to attend graduate school after her 2024 graduation and hopes to one day land a lab-based research job.

For more information about Westminster’s biochemistry department, click here.