Wheatley, Nicole M.

Nicole is a first year trainee and is in the Molecular Biology IDP.  Her research mentor is Dr. Todd Yeates.  She received a B.S. degree in 2009 from UC Irvine. 

Mentor: Dr. Todd Yeates

Research project:

Everyone knows humans produce plastic, use plastic and dispose of 
massive amounts of plastic each day. However, most people do not know that other species do so as well! There are, in fact, many different types of bacteria capable of making and using plastic.  These 'bacterial plastics', also known as 'biodegradable plastics', are the focus of much scientific research, including mine. Bacteria make plastic, or polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), to store energy and carbon, similar to how humans store energy and carbon in the form of fat. My research aims to unravel the mystery of how bacteria make plastic, focusing on proteins involved in the regulation and storage of PHAs. I am currently in the process of determining the structure of phasins, proteins known to encapsulate PHA granules within bacteria, using the technique of X-ray crystallography.