Chemistry, engineering professors team up on protein research

A chemistry seminar?

In these days of virtual gatherings, it is called a “cheminar.”

University of the Pacific’s Department of Chemistry hosted its first online cheminar on Nov. 10. The department has hosted research seminars in the past, but now they are held in a virtual format. The next one is scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon on Nov. 17. Contact Co-chair and Professor Jerry Tsai if you are interested in attending.

The Nov. 10 presentation was from Joseph Harrison, an assistant professor of chemistry who joined Pacific in 2018.

Harrison is currently conducting research with Josh Steimel, an assistant professor with the School of Engineering and Computer Science. Their focus is measuring protein-protein interactions. Current methods of measuring such interactions require large amounts of the proteins, which can be difficult to produce.

Steimel and Harrison are instead trying to measure these interactions using rolling magnetic probes (RMP), which rely on friction caused by protein-protein interactions, meaning that a lower concentration of the protein is required to measure these interactions. The method is based on the movement of particles across cell surfaces in the body. 

“Proteins are incredible chemical readers and they can sense small chemical changes,” Harrison explained.

Harrison and Steimel’s RMP method is extremely precise and has been able to detect interactions that were too small to be measured with traditional methods.

Thus far, Harrison and Steimel have been successful in correlating their system to accepted values, indicating the accuracy of their technique.

Harrison’s research team includes graduate students Li Gu, Vihn Truong and Roos Nederstigt. Undergraduate students include Kathryn Randene, who helped with much of the work that went into the latest RMP research.  

Harrison and Steimel are currently working to publish their research. Check out other research papers published by Harrison and Steimel on Pacific’s website.

Josh Steimel

Josh Steimel, an assistant professor with the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Joseph Harrison

Joseph Harrison, an assistant professor of chemistry.