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Undergraduate Research and Teaching Scholar Program 2005-2006


Ms. Kalam Cheung
Mr. Michael Ma

Mr. Michael Ma
Mentor:Dr. Patricia Johnson and Alias Smith
Funding: Ricciardi
Title: Characterization of Homologues of the Novel Transcription Factor IBP39 in

Left to right: Dr. Patricia Johnson, Michael Ma, Alias Smith

Michael Ma is a fourth year Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics (MIMG) and Marine Biology double major at UCLA. He is also a Life Science 1 tutor and ESCP tutor supervisor at the Academic Advancement Program (AAP) in Campbell Hall. Michael also enjoys swimming with the UCLA Masters Swim Team and participating in conferences with the UCLA Model United Nations club.

Under the direction of Alias Smith in Dr. Patricia Johnson’s lab, Michael will be searching for homologues to the Initiator Binding Protein 39 (IBP39), a novel transcription factor, in Trichomonas vaginalis—a deep-branching eukaryotic parasite that is the cause of a sexually transmitted infection. IBP39 is a transcription factor that binds the initiator element (Inr), a core promoter element, and initiates transcription of genes that do not have the classical TATA box core promoter. BLAST searches have identified six IBP39 homologues, all of which have most of the residues predicted to bind the Inr. In order to determine whether these homologues are actually expressed, Reverse Transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) will be conducted using gene-specific primer sets. If a particular homologue is indeed expressed, it will be cloned into bacterial expression vector. Once the IBP homologue proteins have been overexpressed, the protein will then be isolated using various purification schemes, including chromatography. After the isolation of the IBP proteins, binding to various promoter elements, including the classical INR and other INRs will be tested. Protein-protein interactions involving the IBP homologue carboxy-terminus will be examined by using Tandom-affinity purification and further analyzed by examining binding kinetics of the protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions.

At the Academic Advancement Program, Michael thoroughly enjoys tutoring students in Life Science 1. Due of the breadth and scope of the LS1 curriculum, he feels that this is one the most interesting courses offered at UCLA; major trends and themes in ecology and evolution are explored and examined critically. He says tutoring at AAP has been a lot of fun for him because the students he works with are extremely bright and excited to learn about science.

Finally, Michael would like to wholeheartedly thank Dr. Patricia Johnson and Alias Smith for welcoming him into their lab and for sparking his interest in Trichomonas vaginalis in their very comprehensive and eye-opening Molecular Parasitology (MIMG 168) course. He is also extremely grateful to Emmanuel Owaka and the Academic Advancement Program for giving him the opportunity to teach students what he has learned during his past four years at UCLA and, of course, the Life Science 1 material that he loves so very much. He would also like to express his gratitude to the Ricciardi Foundation, Dr. Audrey Cramer, and the College for enabling him to both conduct research and teach science, which has been a very unique and rewarding experience.




Profiles of Students