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College of Arts and Sciences

Cosimo Antonacci and Biology Student Daniella Catao Awarded STEM Undergraduate Research Award

Dr. Antonacci and Daniella working in the lab.

Antonacci and Daniella working in the lab.

After being awarded the STEM Undergraduate Research Award in January 2024, Chemistry and Biochemistry Laboratory Director and Lecturer Cosimo Antonacci, Ph.D., and Biology student Daniella Catao began their study on "Thermodynamic Analysis of G-quadruplex Forming Regions in a Human Oncogene Promoter." Since both good and bad DNA are found in chromosomes, Antonacci and Daniella are trying to selectively target the "bad DNA" related to cancer with a small molecule. To study these "bad genes", Antonacci and Daniella utilize the well-established techniques of UV-Vis spectroscopy, HPLC, Circular Dichroism, and Differential Scanning Calorimetry. They use UV-Vis spectroscopy, a light technique, to quantify the DNA present and HPLC, a separations technique, to determine purity of the DNA. With circular dichroism, they examine the DNA under biologically relevant conditions to probe for certain signatures that correlate to unique DNA structures. These unique structures are instrumental in this research because they can offer a highly specific target in the sea of chromosomal DNA. Subsequently, Antonacci and Daniella run the DNA in a differential scanning calorimeter. This process allows the pair to determine the thermal stability of the compound and the dynamics of the structure. Overall, the goal is to study the unique DNA with and without small molecules present. Through this process, Antonacci and Daniella will ultimately be able to develop lead molecules to study in cancer models. Research such as Antonacci and Daniella’s can lead to medical breakthroughs in how those with cancer are treated. Daniella has already presented preliminary progress at this year’s Petersheim Academic Exposition, at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Annual Poster Session.

The pair plan on presenting their findings at next years Petersheim Academic Exposition and the William Paterson Conference for Undergraduate Research. Antonacci noted that this initial data could be a critical component of a future publication. In going through this research process, Daniella has felt "welcomed into Antonacci’s lab and joined an amazing teaching environment". Due to a good balance of nurturing guidance and independent study, Daniella has grown as a student and researcher. Complementary to that, Antonacci stated that Daniella’s consistency, dedication and being a fast learner have contributed significantly to her positive research experiences and success. 

Seton Hall has a robust Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry with a wide range of faculty researching in oncology, physical chemistry, organic chemistry, and other areas. The Department offers both the Masters and Doctoral degrees, and Seton Hall is excited to announce a new 3+2 B.S./ M.S. Program that will enable students to earn a B.S. in Biological Sciences and an M.S. in Molecular Bioscience in just five years. Students interested in STEM research should contact Associate Dean Mitra Feizabadi ([email protected]) and students interested in STEM graduate programs should contact Associate Dean Michael Dooney.

Categories: Research, Science and Technology