University of Minnesota
MICaB Graduate Program
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Current Students

Serina Robinson

Thesis Advisor: Larry Wackett

Year entered: 2016

Degrees received:
B.A., St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN 2015

Honors and Awards:

  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, 2017
  • COGS Travel Award, $1200 for SIMB conference, summer 2017


Thesis Research:

β-lactone natural products are potent proteasome and lipase inhibitors. Pharmaceuticals containing the β-lactone moiety are effective as anticancer, antiobesity, and antimicrobial therapies. My thesis lab, the Wackett lab, discovered a β-lactone synthetase enzyme (OleC) in Xanthomonas campestris that catalyzes a reaction from β-hydroxy acids to β-lactones. In my thesis work, I am investigating substrate specificity of the OleC enzyme. I am also developing a bioinformatics pipeline that uses machine learning to detect biosynthetic gene clusters and identify novel β-lactone natural products. To validate these predictions, I am screening OleC homologs for β-lactone synthetase activity and testing their potential for drug development. I anticipate this research will aid in the discovery of new β-lactone natural products.