From left, Rebecca Oshiro, Joseph Bariyanaga and Christine Baltazar in the UH West Oʻahu chemistry laboratory.

Junior Christine Baltazar and sophomore Rebecca Oshiro recently completed the first Kikaha Undergraduate Research Projects at the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu. Under the direction of UH West Oʻahu Associate Professor of Chemistry Joseph Bariyanga, the students worked on undergraduate research in chemistry and will present their projects at a conference in fall 2016. The program was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Baltazar investigated the interaction of a plant chemical, mimosine, with DNA and searched for possible mechanisms this chemical uses to bind to DNA. The chemical was recently shown to have anti-tumor properties against several types of cancers. Through her research, Baltazar learned how to analyze samples to uncover binding sites. Her project advances the understanding of how a potential cancer-fighting drug might work to defeat cancer.

As part of her research project, Oshiro synthesized a new platinum complex compound and analyzed this compound using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometry. The compound she created shares structural features with the most used drug in chemotherapy, cisplatin. Through her work, Oshiro joins scientists around the world in searching for efficient anti-cancer drugs that produce less side effects.

While conducting their undergraduate research projects, both Baltazar and Oshiro gained experience operating modern instruments to purify and analyze chemical compounds and practiced advanced laboratory procedures.

More about the Kikaha Undergraduate Research Project

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—By Julie Funasaki Yuen