Faculty Name & Department/School: Benjamin (BJ) Philmus

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Faculty Name & Department/School: Benjamin (BJ) Philmus/ Department of Pharmacy
Research Project Title: Characterization of secondary metabolite production from lichenized
cyanobacteria.
Project Overview: Cyanobacteria are well known producers of bioactive natural products. Some
free living species have been identified as the causative agents of toxic algal blooms which have
resulted in the death of farm animals and humans (i.e. Microcystis aeruginosa). However, in
contrast to the tremendous work that has been done in researching free living species, symbiotic
species have not been studied as intensely. Cyanobacteria are known to form symbiotic
relationships with fungi which results in the formation of a composite organism known as the
lichen. Lichens have been used throughout human history in traditional medicine and as dyes.
Research has shown that lichens produce a large number of bioactive natural products but which
compounds are derived from the fungus and which from the cyanobacteria is still not completely
addressed. This project proposes to start characterizing the compounds produced by lichenized
cyanobacteria that grow in the Pacific Northwest, particularly Oregon.
What skills will students obtain in this project? Cyanobacterial culturing techniques (liquid
and solid media), microscopic identification of cyanobacteria, genomic DNA isolation and PCR
techniques to classify the isolated cyanobacteria, high performance liquid chromatography
(HPLC), mass spectrometry (MS), NMR characterization of isolated compounds.
Student research tasks: All tasks will be performed with the help of an experienced lab
member.
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Isolate cyanobacteria from lichen samples
Grow cyanobacteria to isolate genomic DNA for taxonomic identification purposes
Grow cyanobacteria for small molecule extraction followed by chemical characterization
of the constituents by HPLC-MS and possibly NMR
Period of work: Fall-Spring
Number of hours per week expected of student:
5-10
Preferred Faculty Contact Information: [email protected]
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