SHS Student Announced as IRIC Silver Medalist & Receives $18,000 Scholarship

Congratulations to Shorewood High School incoming junior, Riju Dey, who was recently selected to receive the INSPO Silver Medal in the Junior division of the Insposcience Innovation and Research Competition (IRIC) with his project “Discovery of Novel Dual Phosphatase Kinase in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Contributing to Pathogenicity.” This place Riju in the top 6% of all IRIC applicants from Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.

The IRIC gives students the opportunity to showcase their STEM project to industry leaders, established professors, and other top youths in North America’s premier online science fair.

As a silver medal winner, Riju receives a $18,000 entrance scholarship to the Rochester Institute of Technology.

You can learn more about Riju’s project by reading his paper & viewing his video here.

Below is also a synopsis of Riju’s project:

The opportunistic bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes many human and plant diseases. Over 50,000 people suffer from Pseudomonas infections annually. Despite the enormous research that has been conducted at the genomic and proteomic level, mechanisms of disease pathogenesis of Pseudomonas remains unclear. In an attempt to better understand Pseudomonas pathogenicity, I focused on an uncharacterized protein containing a eukaryotic-like protein kinase domain. Interestingly, I also observed that it contains a phosphatase domain. Thus, I referred to this unusual protein as dual-phosphatase kinase 1 (Dpk1). I hypothesized that Dpk1 likely contributed to Pseudomonas pathogenicity. To test my hypothesis, I deleted the dpk1 gene from the genome and found that the deletion of dpk1 did not have any effect on bacterial growth. However, deletion of dpk1 significantly reduced production of pyocyanin and resistance to antibiotic Imipenem. Pyocyanin is one of the contributing factors to host infection, suggesting that Dpk1 plays a major role in Pseudomonas pathogenesis. To further characterize the molecular function of Dpk1, I modeled it using the SWISS-MODEL program. I also expressed separately the full-length Dpk1 protein and only the phosphatase or kinase domain in the baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (unicellular eukaryote). I found that the kinase domain and phosphatase domain were functional. The functionality was further confirmed by in vitro kinase and phosphatase assays. In conclusion, I identified a novel dual-phosphatase kinase in P. aeruginosa, which contributes to pathogenicity.

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