Nagengast Receives National Chemistry Award for Involving Widener Undergraduates in her Research
Dr. Alexis Nagengast, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and chair of biochemistry at Widener University, has received the Braude Award from the Maryland chapter of the American Chemical Society. This award recognizes chemistry faculty in the United States who involve undergraduate students in their research.It is presented annually in memory of Dr. George Braude, a former president of the ACS Maryland chapter.
Nagengast earned the Braude Award based on her ongoing work with Widener undergraduates to study resveratrol, a compound found in red wine that has been shown to have anti-aging effects. Nagengast first began studying this compound in the summer of 2008 when then student Neha Sirohi, '10, asked for help following through on a research proposal to study the effects of resveratrol in fruit flies, a specimen frequently studied by Nagengast. This initial project has subsequently branched off into related research studies that involve other Widener faculty and students.
Faculty members Krishna Bhat and Ismail Kul are working alongside students to design derivatives of resveratrol and testing the physical properties of these compounds. Nagengast will examine whether these derivatives work better than resveratrol to extend the lifespan and quality of life of fruit flies. She is currently working with rising sophomore chemistry major Rebecca Vaders and rising senior biology major Bijal Kakrecha to examine the best food source for delivering the derivatives.
"This has grown into a collaborative, interdisciplinary project," said Nagengast. "Perhaps we'll discover at Widener the next fountain of youth – a compound that works even better than resveratrol."
Nagengast is co-director of the Arts and Sciences Summer Research Program at Widener, which brings together all of the Arts and Sciences student researchers for weekly social and professional development events. The program culminates with a research poster presentation at the end of the summer. She is also the university's health professions advisor.
Nagengast has another ongoing research project studying alternative splicing of genes in fruit flies. She examines how genes are spliced and how splicing changes under different nutrient conditions. She uses fruit flies as her subjects given the similarities between their genes and those found in humans.
Nagengast serves as the undergraduate representative for the North American Drosophila Board or "fly board", which is a group of researchers who work with fruit flies. She is also on the undergraduate travel award committee with the Genetic Society of America, which helps select undergraduates to send to the annual "fly meeting".
A resident of Garnet Valley, Pa., Nagengast serves as an annual guest lecturer at Garnet Valley High School, where she talks about genetics and mutations and shows off her collection of fly mutants.
Nagengast earned a bachelor's in chemistry from Duquesne University, a master's in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of Delaware and a doctorate in genetics from Case Western Reserve University.
Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, experiential learning and leadership are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees. The university's campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve some 6,700 students. Visit the university website, www.widener.edu.