McNair Scholar 2022 Ulises Perez

Ulises Perez is a rising senior at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, majoring in chemistry. His research interests are investigating quinine-based molecules for potential use in gene therapies to reduce their cost. He plans on getting his Ph.D. in chemistry to eventually become a professor.

Ulises Perez
My dream is to become a professor after receiving my Ph.D. in chemistry. I have a responsibility to provide disadvantaged students the opportunities for success I did not have.

Research project

Measuring Quinine-Based Monomer DNA Interactions Through Raman Spectroscopy for Use in Polymer Gene Delivery

Abstract: Current gene therapies utilize virus vectors for treatment of disease, but they are expensive and have a limited shelf life. Polymer mediated gene therapies are a suitable alternative because they address these issues. Our group has previously used Raman spectroscopy to investigate quinine-based polymers to further understand the transfection mechanism of DNA. My project is investigating how quinine-based monomers intercalate with DNA to elucidate the effect different monomers will have on the transfection efficiency. Raman spectroscopy can monitor the local environment changes that occur when the polymer interacts with the DNA. We monitor the quinoline ring vibrational mode and its shift as a function of DNA concentration, for different quinine-based monomers. By comparing the trend of frequency shifts for each monomer with their respective transfection efficiency, we can understand the effect quinine-DNA interactions have on the overall efficiency of polymer gene delivery. These results will be used to further the development of new and efficient quinine-based polymers for gene delivery.

View the poster presentation

Faculty mentor

Renee Frontiera is currently the Northrop Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Frontiera attended the University of California, Berkeley under her research advisor Richard Mathies where she received her Ph. D. in chemistry. Her research covers liquid-plasma interfaces, molecular dynamics in photovoltaics, super-resolution imaging, polymer-mediated gene delivery, plasmonic nanomaterials, and destruction of chemical warfare agents. These projects all have an interest in determining how different local environments effect the rate and mechanism of chemical reactions.