Two senior Biology majors from St. Mary’s University have received prestigious travel awards to present their research at the 2014 Experimental Biology Meeting in San Diego, April 26-29.

Jessica Waninger-Saroni and Diana Zamora will be accompanied by their faculty adviser, Ahmad Galaleldeen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences. The annual gathering attracts more than 14,000 scientists, researchers and exhibitors who meet to discuss strides and contributions made to the field of science.

“I’m so proud of my students,” Galaleldeen said. “These awards and the opportunity to present their work are testaments to how good St. Mary’s students are and the quality of the research in which they are involved.”

Waninger-Saroni, a Biaggini Research Scholar, was a recipient of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) National Science Foundation (NSF) Student Research Travel Award of $900. She will give an oral presentation on an investigation she conducted with Galaleldeen and researchers from John Hopkins University and the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

Their research, titled “The Crystal Structure of SOD5: An Unusual Copper-only Superoxide Dismutase,” reports the structure of superoxide dismutase protein which enables the fungus responsible for ailments such as yeast infections and diaper rashes to evade the host immune response.

Zamora is a recipient of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Travel Award of $1,850. Zamora will give a poster presentation on research she conducted with Galaleldeen and Jose Tormos Melendez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Chemistry, on the structure of the enzyme polyamine oxidase.

Polyamine oxidase is responsible for the breakdown of polyamines, and these compounds have been found to play an important role in cell growth. The team hopes that a better knowledge of the biophysical properties of polyamine oxidase will lead to breakthroughs in diseases such as cancer. Their work is titled “In Pursuit of Mammalian Polyamine Oxidase Crystal Structure.”

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