Luther College student researches HSA protein applications

August 18, 2017

Human serum albumin is the most abundant protein found in human blood plasma. Megan Roozeboom, Luther College senior of Oskaloosa, Iowa, is using steady-state fluorescence spectroscopy to research how curcuminoids, a major component of the spice turmeric, bind with HSA for her summer research project at the college.

The curcuminoid-HSA complex has many potential applications, including use in a cancer treatment called photodynamic drug therapy. Curcuminoids are photoactive molecules “” they react to a specific wavelength of light “” and once excited, react to form reactive oxygen species. A reactive oxygen species can then trigger cellular apoptosis, programmed cell death, leading to the death of the cancer cell. The HSA protein carries the drug (curcuminoid) to the cancer site before it is excited, and then the drug is released, allowing for the therapy to occur.

Roozeboom, the daughter of Steven and Marcia Roozeboom of Oskaloosa, is a 2014 Oskaloosa High School graduate. She is majoring in chemistry with minors in biology and Scandinavian studies at Luther.

“I’ve learned that I really like doing research and being involved in the scientific community,” Roozeboom said. “Before I did this research I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I didn’t know what doing research really meant, but now I know that I love it.”

Roozeboom is working with Olga Michels, Luther professor of chemistry, on her project. “In the current educational climate it is key for undergraduate students to have opportunities to truly engage in cutting edge research. It is a pleasure to work with some of our brightest students on these research questions and contribute to literature in our fields of study. Providing these opportunities right here on Luther’s campus is an integral part for all of our science departments,” Michels said.

The group’s collaboration is funded through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The Student-Faculty Summer Research projects provide students an opportunity to research topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities at Luther intended to deepen the learning process and that are part of Luther’s academic core.

The results of the project will be presented at Luther’s Student Research Symposium in 2018.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,150, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college’s website: