Student Research Project: Jayde Bertoch

Jayde Bertoch, a senior double majoring in chemistry and biology is working on his student research project with Dr. Bruce Howard in the chemistry department to explore a dimension of X- Raycrystalography.

Bertoch has been working on this project since February of this year. Over the summer he put in 20 hours per week in the science lab on Southern Utah University’s campus conducting research. SUU was able to receive funding to buy a machine that evaluates microscopic molecules, making Bertoch and Dr. Howard’s research possible. 

This project caught Bertoch’s interest as soon as he heard about it. 

“One of the main reasons I chose to work on it now is because it will give me the experience I need to go to graduate school for Biochemistry. It’s also awesome to be involved in scientific discovery,” said Bertoch.

Crystallography is a biochemical technique to understand the three-dimensional structure of a protein. This is important because it allows researchers to understand how proteins function. 

“This is used a lot in pharmaceutical design,” Bertoch explains. “You have to know what the active site of a protein looks like for a drug to be able to target that protein.” 

Bertoch and Dr. Howard are studying a protein from an acidic hot springs such as Yellowstone. 

Bertoch said, “We are interested in studying this organism because it lives in really extreme conditions such as very high temperatures, and really acidic PH. We want to know what contributes to its stability.” 

The information for this student research project is gathered over a series of experiments. The process consists of the particular protein being purified in the correct solution. When it is, the molecules combine and formed a structured crystal. The crystal is frozen and X-rays will scatter. This scattering portrays a ‘diffraction pattern’. This can be converted to a map that will essentially help make out the structure of the protein. 

SUU students have great opportunities to participate in similar projects. Larger Universities don’t allow for that individualized experience and learning. Bertoch enjoyed having the personalized experience of completing the research. 

“I was able to take ownership and run with it. I’ve been able to be involved with the planning, and do the work myself,” Bertoch said. 

Student research projects should be available in every department. For more information visit here.

Story by: Moriah Spainhower
Photos Courtesy of: Moriah Spainhower