Dreyfus Foundation Supports Next Generation of Chemical Scientists at Colorado State University

Colorado State University’s College of Natural Sciences will add new postdoctoral and student researchers to its ranks during the fall 2014 semester.

The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation is supporting the salaries of one post-doctoral fellow and several undergraduate students to conduct chemical science-related research.

The foundation awarded $120,000 to Ellen R. Fisher, chair of CSU’s chemistry department and American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow, through its Postdoctoral Program in Environmental Chemistry, and $20,000 to Professor Emeritus James Bamburg in the University’s biochemistry and molecular biology department, through its Senior Scientist Mentor Program.

Dreyfus funds students to work on specific research projects. Fisher and Bamburg submitted research proposals which the foundation reviewed for technical merit. Only a handful of projects are selected each year.

The New York-based organization was founded by chemist, inventor and businessman Camille Dreyfus to honor his brother, Henry, and is “dedicated to the advancement of the chemical sciences.”

“We are grateful to the Dreyfus Foundation and its decision to fund these positions,” said Jan Nerger, dean of CSU’s College of Natural Sciences. “We can provide essential hands-on research experience to undergraduate students and an opportunity for a post-doc to work alongside one of our top researchers.”

Fisher’s research project focuses on altering the surface properties of membranes, primarily those used to filter water, so they become hydrophilic – attract water — and last longer.

Water, bacteria and other contaminants can cause membranes to “foul.” The Dreyfus-funded postdoctoral student will help Fisher develop plasma treatments that can be applied to the membranes to make them more robust and also kill off bacteria and other contaminants.

The treated membrane will become part of an experimental three-stage membrane or filter Fisher is developing with CSU colleagues. This membrane will be used to create a high-performance water filter that resists fouling and lasts longer while also having minimal environmental impact.

“Having a postdoctoral student who is funded to work on this for two years will really advance the project,” Fisher said.

Bamburg’s research focuses on cofilin-actin rods, a newly identified pathology found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, and how this rod formation can be both blocked and reversed.

Cofilin-actin rods are induced in cultured neurons by proteins involved in the development of early-onset genetic forms of Alzheimer disease and also in neuroinflammatory conditions such as occur after traumatic brain injury.

Formation of these rods affects how neurons communicate, which is essential for the brain to function. The rods could be a target of therapeutic intervention for many different brain disorders, Bamburg said.

“Over the past 10 years, many different undergraduates have made significant contributions to our work on cofilin-actin rods,” Bamburg said. “They start by assisting our senior students and staff and eventually carve out projects of their own, which will be supported by funds received from the Dreyfus Foundation.”