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CIE Researcher of Distinction, February 2015

Emmanuel AsareEmmanuel Asare 

Each month, the Center for Inclusive Education showcases the outstanding research being conducted by one of our talented scholars in our Research Café series. In addition, we recognize this scholar as a Researcher of Distinction and share the details of his/her journey to becoming an accomplished scholar. This month's Researcher of Distinction is Emmanuel Asare, PhD candidate in Genetics. Emmanuel presented his talk, ‘A Poliovirus Cold Case: A Mutation in the Vicinity of a Capsid Interacting Site of Poliovirus 2CATPase Results in a Defect in Viral Encapsidation’ on Wednesday, February 4, 2015.

Emmanuel's Path Into Research

I was born in Kumasi, Ghana (West Africa) and migrated to the Bronx, New York in 1996. I was educated in New York City public schools, including the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics in East Harlem. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at high school, particularly in my experience with the diverse social and economic demographics of New York City. I was elected as Treasurer for the National Honor Society and became a Division I Varsity Soccer Goalie. During this time, I became fascinated by philosophy - especially pertaining to war and politics and how they apply to everyday life.

I left New York City to attend Clarkson University at Potsdam. Originally, I enrolled in the Tech School for Engineering; however, I graduated with a degree in biology. I was admitted to Clarkson University’s Honors Program my sophomore year. Throughout my undergraduate tenure, my most treasured awards were for my undergraduate research through the CSTEP and McNair programs.

During my first semester at Clarkson University at Potsdam, I took my older sister’s advice to volunteer and approached Dr. James Schulte about volunteering in his lab to clean and play with the animals. Dr. Schulte’s research focused on mutation rates in DNA to determine evolution times of various lizards and snakes. He declined my proposal and gave me a research project instead. After the positive experience I had on this project in Dr. Schulte’s Lab, my decision to pursue research was inevitable.

Emmanuel's Current Research

Describe the work you will be presenting for your Research Café.

Poliovirus (PV) is a plus strand RNA virus that causes poliomyelitis. PV belongs to the Picornaviridae family and in the genus Enterovirus. PV 2CATPase is a complex polypeptide with important roles in RNA replication, and encapsidation. Two triple alanine mutations upstream of a structural protein interacting sites yielded a replication defective and a lethal growth phenotype. The lethal mutations mapped to a secondary structure in a Phyre2 predicted 2CATPase 3D model. Further investigation into lethal mutations revealed a quasi-infections mutant and a cold-sensitive growth phenotype mutant that arises from viral encapsidation.

With the help of CIE undergraduate, Sarah Georges (IMSD-MERGE), we have discovered that a single amino acid change in 2CATPase causes an encapsidation defect. More interestingly, the mutant virus is cold sensitive and manifests a delayed viral uncoating at lower temperatures.

Are there any other projects you are currently working on?

I am currently working on exploring the localization of viral and host proteins during the life cycle of poliovirus infection. This project is exciting because I will be investigating movements of these proteins using a “Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy”, which will provide unprecedented insights for viral proteins localization during infection.

What was the deciding factor for you to come to Stony Brook for your graduate studies?

Coming from a school that primarily focused on engineering and business, I had little experience with the broad spectrum of genetic applications and research. However, receiving the Stony Brook LSAMP Bridge to Doctorate Fellowship and acceptance into the Genetics program gave me assurance that I would have a better opportunity to explore genetics as a whole. I am currently an AGEP-T FRAME Fellow as well.

What are your future goals?

I would eventually like to establish my own laboratory at an institution, but the type of institution remains unclear. Recently, I have developed an interest in translational molecular genetics outside of basic research, which is influencing my future goals.

What do you enjoy most about research?

My favorite part about my research is the fact that it continues to challenge and intrigue me along of the way. For the most part, I view myself as a problem solver, but I am amazed by how a virus solves its problem and fascinated by its ability to defy “convention”.