Structural Studies of Enzymes That Make Bacterial Natural Products

image of the structure of ObiF, a protein that makes the lactone antibiotic obafluorin.

This project will work to understand the structure and function of enzymes that are used by bacteria to make novel antibiotics and other bioactive molecules.

Project is Not Currently Available

This project has reached full capacity for the current term. Please check back next semester for updates.

Project description

Many microorganisms produce natural products, small molecules that are sent into the environment that allow the cell to adapt to diverse environments. Because these natural products are biologically active, they have been exploited as pharmaceuticals, serving as the source or inspiration for over half of the drugs approved by the FDA. Understanding how these molecules are produced may enable the discovery of new enzymes and new natural products. We study the structure and function of the enzymes that produce many natural products, with a special emphasis on a family of proteins that produce peptides with antibiotic activity. Students will perform mutagenesis and biochemical assays, in functional studies, as well as crystallization experiments to enable the understanding of the structure of these important enzymes.

Project outcome

The specific outcomes of this project will be identified by the faculty mentor at the beginning of your collaboration. 

Project details

Timing, eligibility and other details
Length of commitment Longer than a semester (6-9 months)
Start time Anytime
In-person, remote, or hybrid?
Level of collaboration Individual student project
Benefits Academic Credit
Who is eligible Students studying biochemistry, chemistry, or biology who have taken a Biochemistry or Organic Chemistry class. GPA of 3.2 or higher. Students should have familiarity with basic lab skills and the ability to work independently.
Goldwater and the National Science Foundation

Students participating in this project might be interested in and eligible for the Goldwater Scholarship and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Connect with the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships to learn more.

Project mentor

Andrew Gulick

Associate Professor

Structural Biology

955 Main St.

Phone: (716) 829-3696


Start the project

  1. Email the project mentor using the contact information above to express your interest and get approval to work on the project. (Here are helpful tips on how to contact a project mentor.)
  2. After you receive approval from the mentor to start this project, click the button to start the digital badge. (Learn more about ELN's digital badge options.) 

Preparation activities

Once you begin the digital badge series, you will have access to all the necessary activities and instructions. Your mentor has indicated they would like you to also complete the specific preparation activities below. Please reference this when you get to Step 2 of the Preparation Phase. 

  • Read a short article describing the enzymes that make bacterial natural products. 
  • Meet with Dr. Gulick to discuss the article and the research project.


Structural Biology