2023 Division Of Research Annual Report

22 INTERSECTIONS Crossover Impact Ripple Effects Skin cancer is the most common cancer worldwide. But absorption poses the risk, not mere sun exposure. Absorption of ultraviolet light generates molecular vibrations that can structurally damage DNA, leading to a mutation and, possibly, cancer. Brian Van Hoozen, Ph.D., proposes that DNA damage may be avoided by neutralizing light-induced vibrations with the vibrations of nearby water molecules. The first step, however, is understanding how DNA vibrates and the role the solvent plays in those vibrations. Using quantum mechanical calculations and infrared spectroscopy, Van Hoozen and Maria Ballester, Ph.D., hope to see how often vibrations pass from DNA to water molecules, and if it is a common mechanism by which skin cancer is avoided. Hybrid Studies Research projects by Jose Lopez, Ph.D., on genomic sequences of essential microbes bear significance for both ecology and biomedical science. Plants and animals are two major groups of living organisms. Understanding how organisms relate to one another can help address diseases that impact one or both, including humans. Bryozoans are microscopic marine invertebrates known to produce bioactive compounds (bryostatins) that have multiple potential therapeutic applications for treating cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Lopez’s lab characterized the genome of a bryozoan named Bugula Neritina, which contributed to two large-scale genome projects. Another study may reveal environmental and anthropogenic triggers, so scientists can prevent repeat occurrence of harmful algae blooms. Such blooms drive away aquatic life and produce toxins that can sicken or kill people and animals. A collaborative shark study with Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D., could improve bite-treatment protocols. Under Construction