Aleksandra Szczuka, 2014, Chemical and Biological Engineering

The goal of my internship at the Morel lab was to determine the effect of pH and temperature changes on the activity of the enzyme carbonic anhydrase. Carbonic anhydrase catalyzes the inter-conversion of carbon dioxide and bicarbonate, helping adjust the level of carbon dioxide within a cell. The activity of this enzyme depends on outside factors, and ultimately influences, for example, the cell’s growth rate. Being a metalloenzyme, carbonic anhydrase activity additionally depends on the concentration levels of metals such as zinc. During the summer, I isolated two forms of the enzyme, CdCA and TWCA1, grown at different metal concentrations, and attempted to measure the activity of each under different pH and temperature conditions. By attempting to isolate active protein several times, I gained insight into the quirks of environmental research and became aware of how to isolate, purify, and quantify protein. This internship introduced me to the many possibilities of environmental research, and put me on an academic and career path that will center around understanding humans’ effect on the environment.