Journal of Undergraduate Research


proteins, versatile biological molecules, amino acid


Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology


Chemical Engineering


Proteins are versatile biological molecules that catalyze chemical reactions, provide cellular structure, and transport materials throughout the body. Proteins have been adapted for use in a wide variety of industries including food processing, medical diagnostics, and therapeutics. However, proteins must often be modified to enhance their utility in these operations. One method that can be used as an initial step in protein modification strategies is replacement of a naturally occurring amino acid with an unnatural amino acid (uAA). Previous research has suggested that it is very difficult to predict the stability of a uAA-modified protein based on any individual factor. However, a computational model has been used to overcome this limitation by testing each site by creating a coarse-grain model of the modified protein and simulating it. My project furthered this idea. The goals of my project were: 1) experimentally determine which AA of a protein can be replaced by uAAs without compromising protein stability and activity and 2) use a new computational molecular model to simulate proteins with uAAs and predict behavior.