Inside Rensselaer
* Fourth W.H. Peterson Award for Rensselaer
Melissa Holstein
Fourth W.H. Peterson Award for Rensselaer
Graduate student Melissa Holstein has won the 2009 W.H. Peterson Award for best poster presentation in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) biochemical technology division. She is the fourth Rensselaer student to win the award since 2001 — an unparalleled accomplishment. During that same period, no other institution has won this poster award more than once. All four Rensselaer winners have been members of the research group led by Steven Cramer, William Weightman Walker Professor of Polymer Engineering.

Holstein will accept the award next month at the ACS spring national meeting in San Francisco.

Previous W.H. Peterson Award winners from the Cramer lab are Christopher Morrison in 2007, Kaushal Rege in 2004, and Nihal Tugcu in 2001.

The W.H. Peterson Award recognizes outstanding student research in biochemical technology. Two awards are granted each year: one for best poster presentation and one for best oral presentation.

“This is truly an honor for Melissa and for Steve,” said Shekhar Garde, professor and department head, chemical and biological engineering. “Historically, this award has been a predictor of future success. Past winners have gone on to become exceptional faculty and leaders of industry.

“The fact that four of Steve’s students have won in recent years is indicative of the caliber of student we attract and the high quality of their research,” said Garde.

A second-year doctoral student in chemical engineering, Holstein received the award for her poster presentation, “Understanding Protein-Ligand Interactions in Multi-Modal Chromatography Using NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance).” The poster showcased ongoing research by Holstein, Cramer, students Alex Freed and Wai Keen Chung (now graduated), and Scott McCallum, director of Rensselaer’s NMR Core Facility.

The goal of the research is to gain insights into how molecules with multiple interaction sites bind with proteins and, ultimately, to draw on those insights to help streamline the protein purification process. Since purification plays a key role in pharmaceutical and biotechnology manufacturing, the research could potentially reduce costs significantly for manufacturers and consumers.

Cramer attributes his students’ success to their “incredible talent and hard work,” the nature of their research, and the opportunities and world-class facilities, such as the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.

“We have access to many of the latest tools — state-of-the-art experimental techniques, including high-throughput screening, genetic and chemical protein libraries, advanced NMR, and computational science — and we bring them all to bear on important bioseparation problems,” Cramer said.

Holstein earned her bachelor’s in chemical engineering from Rensselaer in 2008 and was awarded a Rensselaer Graduate Fellowship to pursue her doctoral degree. She credits her decision to attend graduate school to her research experience as an undergraduate in Cramer’s group.

“His group consistently conducts high-level research, and I am just glad to be a part of it,” Holstein said.
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 4, March 5, 2010
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