Key to healthy cell function is proper control over metabolism - chemical reaction pathways that provide energy and produce molecules for making complex biological structures and send messages to various parts of the cell. While research efforts have defined many of the most basic chemical reaction pathways in cells, the changing connections between these pathways under normal and abnormal metabolic conditions remain largely unknown. Dr. Raymond Moellering develops new chemical tools and techniques to understand how glucose (sugar) metabolism - the dominant energy pathway in life - communicates with other pathways that sense and control the response of cells that are experiencing stress. In parallel, Dr. Moellering integrates this research with new coursework, on-campus research opportunities for local high school students, and the creation of an educational outreach program in local high schools. Collectively, these programs aim to provide students with hands-on research experiences and encourage them to pursue career paths in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
With this award, the Chemistry of Life Processes Program is funding Dr. Raymond Moellering at the University of Chicago to develop an integrated suite of chemical probes, proteomic methods, and cellular model systems to discover and quantify the role of a prototypical intrinsic reactive metabolite, methylglyoxal. Methylglyoxal regulates cellular homeostasis and complex phenotypes in cells and whole organisms. Dr. Moellering uses these methods and cross-species proteomic and metabolomic datasets in identifying novel protein targets involved in the response to reactive glycolytic metabolites. He studies the two candidate proteins already identified. Research objectives are integrated with three educational goals that develop new coursework that brings together physical science pedagogy and student exposure to diverse career options for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The team provides educational research opportunities for local high school students on-campus at the University of Chicago and in local high schools. The coursework, summer research areas, and basic science lectures consider the role of chemical probes and techniques in understanding basic biology and wellness in society.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.