Muro Group Member Wins HHMI Fellowship

Senior Maria Ansar (double major, biochemistry and cell biology & molecular genetics), a member of Fischell Department of Bioengineering assistant professor Silvia Muro's research group, has been awarded a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Undergraduate Research Fellowship for her proposed study of the fundamental cellular changes that take place when a cell interfaces with a drug carrier.

The competitive HHMI Fellowship program, sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of Maryland's College of Mathematical, Chemical & Natural Sciences, supports the research activities of undergraduates working under the direction of a faculty mentor. The program's goal is to give talented students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the investigative process, increase their aptitude for research, collaborate directly with faculty, and strengthen their dedication to a career in medical, biological or life sciences.

Ansar’s research project focuses the mechanisms that allow for the internalization of drug carriers into cells, an understanding of which is important to the design of targeted intracellular drug delivery systems. In particular, she will be studying the effect of loading enzymes, those specific protein molecules that can catalyze reactions, on the surface of specialized drug carriers. The enzymes she employs in her studies have the capacity to modify the composition of specific molecules called lipids that are key components of a targeted cell membrane. The goal of the research project is to see if the enzyme-initiated cell changes will improve internalization of carriers and their associated drugs.

Story adapted from the original by and provided courtesy of Dr. Debra L. Weinstein, Research Development Specialist, Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research.

Published February 22, 2012