Biochemistry 
 
Karen Almeida
Research in my lab focuses on the repair of damaged DNA, specifically damage encountered during active replication or S-phase.  DNA is a dynamic biopolymer that contains the genetic information for life.  The accurate copying of this information is critical to survival yet the DNA is constantly damaged from the byproducts of metabolism within a cell as well as from exposure to toxins in the environment.  The state of persistent DNA damage leads to undesired genetic changes, perhaps even cancer.  Therefore, cells have devised numerous pathways for the repair of DNA damage. Research in my lab explores the interaction between two known DNA damage repair proteins, Bloom syndrome protein (Blm) and Rad51.
Undergraduate research in my lab is critical for success.  Individual projects include:
*The subcloning of cDNA for the full-length Blm protein as well as specific deletion mutants that will assist in determining the exact residues that contact Rad51 
*The over expression and purification of Blm proteins to be used for in vitro biochemical assays
*Determining Protein-Protein binding interactions again to be used to assess the affect of deletion mutants
This work is supported by the RI-INBRE grant for the NIH.
 
John Williams
Dr. Williams’ research group is actively involved in the synthesis, analysis, and toxicity screening of arylphosphonium salts. This type of compound readily passes the cell membrane and the mitochondrial membrane. They complex with DNA in vitro and are inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase, both in vitro and in vivo. The literature reports anti-parasitic and anti-cancer activity in vivo for some of these molecules. They are also antibacterials. 
The long-term goal is to prepare novel compounds of this class that will show selective toxicity against bacteria, especially resistant strains, selective inhibition of acetylcholinesterase, which is one approach to treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease, and selective binding of DNA in malignant cells and thereby act as a cancer chemotherapeutic agents.
The current research projects introduce chemistry and biology students to the essentials of drug development research: make the compounds, collect ADMET data, screen the compounds, select the active compounds for in vivo testing.  A parallel project is computational chemistry (see Theoretical Chemistry) of these salts as potential DNA and protein binders.
This work is supported by the  RI College Faculty Research Fund, EPSCoR and RI-INBRE