John C. Young scholar Emily Madden ’15 conducts research on Alzheimer’s disease
Emily Madden ’15 believes her time spent as a John C. Young (JCY) Scholar helped prepare her for the next step, saying her senior year experience was “like an intro course” to how she imagined graduate school to be.
Madden spent her senior year conducting independent research titled “Design, Synthesis and Screening of Potential Alzheimer’s Disease Therapeutics,” supported through Centre College’s JCY Scholars program.
Designed to serve highly motivated senior students, JCY allows participating scholars to engage in independent study, research or artistic work in a major discipline or in an interdisciplinary area of choosing.
“The goal of my JCY project was to identify novel therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease by identifying a new compound that was able to inhibit the aggregation of a protein called amyloid-beta,” Madden says.
A “hallmark” of the disease is the development of abnormal protein plaques, like amyloid-beta, in the brain. Madden’s research involved screening different organic compounds and peptide fragments for their ability to disrupt or inhibit the aggregation of these proteins.
She measured the amount of proteins present by using a fluorescence-based assay that would cause the molecule Thioflavin T to fluoresce “depending on how much amyloid-beta was aggregated.”
“The more fluorescence was measured, the more the protein was aggregated,” Madden explains. “I screened different compounds for their ability to inhibit this aggregation. Therefore, when amyloid-beta was mixed with a potential inhibitor, I looked for a decrease in measured fluorescence.”
Throughout the research process, JCY scholars work closely with a faculty mentor on their respective projects. For Madden, that mentor was Assistant Professor of Chemistry Kerry Paumi.
Paumi’s goals for Madden were similar to those she has for all research students: to “have an understanding of what research is, how to become an independent thinker and how to critically think through a problem.”
“She could critically think through any problem, and she could research any problem and figure out what the next steps were,” Paumi explains. “You always hope that the research itself progresses, but I think the bigger gains were just for Emily. Watching her grow as a scientist was really awesome.”
Madden, who plans to continue researching human pathogens, will be a student in the biological and biomedical sciences program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill starting this summer.
by Anne Wilson ‘15 and Hayley Hoffman ’16
June 15, 2015