Serrano receives National Science Foundation
Graduate Research Fellowship Program Award
Dante Serrano, a student within the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s (BMB) Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology (BMMB) graduate program, has received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program Award. The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions.
Serrano conducts his research within the Booker Laboratory, under the guidance and mentorship of Evan Pugh University Professor of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Squire Booker. The Booker Laboratory investigates multiple topics in enzymology, such as natural product biosynthesis, post-translational modification, and RNA modification. The research emphasizes the methylation or sulfidation of un-activated carbon centers, and the use of S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) and iron-sulfur clusters in enzyme catalysis.
Serrano’s research specifically focuses on bond formation between carbon and main group elements catalyzed by vitamin B12-dependent radical SAM enzymes. “I study how oxygen-sensitive radical SAM enzymes are able to use [4Fe-4S] clusters and vitamin B12 to catalyze novel bonds between carbon and other elements,” says Serrano. Serrano’s work is helping identify how specific bonds are formed in the biosynthesis of broad-spectrum antibiotics. The vitamin B12-dependent radical SAM enzymes he is investigating are often found in antibiotic biosynthetic pathways. By learning how these enzymes catalyze reactions in nature, Serrano hopes to push the boundary of scientific understanding so that chemists can then identify how to chemically synthesize new classes of antibiotics for pathogenic bacteria.
After graduating from Penn State and earning his Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.), Serrano intends to continue his pursuit of a position within academia. The next step in his career will be to move into a Post-doctoral Research position.