Graduate Student Receives First Prize at Withycombe-Charlambous Graduate Student Symposium

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Hyeyoung Lee is a recent first prize award winner of the March 2011 Withycombe-Charalmbous Graduate Student Symposium, which was held in conjunction with the 241st American Chemical Society National Meeting.  The symposium was designed to showcase the research talents of invited graduate degree candidates to prospective employers.   At the symposium, Lee presented the research from two of her previously published papers along with a paper she is currently working on in her talk “Structure and Function of Milk Glycolipids.”

Lee is a Ph.D. student with the Foods for Health Institute and works in Dr. Bruce German’s food science lab and Dr. Carlito Lebrilla’s lab in the chemistry department.  Lee studies milk glycolipids, and in spite of their potential importance in the human body and in health, they have not been studied in depth at this point because of their structural complexity and diversity.  The tedious analysis process of glycolipids inspired Lee to develop an accurate and rapid profiling method using high-resolution mass spectrometry and accelerated data processing, which shortened the usually lengthy process to a single day.  In addition to Lee’s development of this novel and rapid method for glycolipids, she also developed analytical strategies for in-depth profiling with the use of Agilent nanoHPLC Chip Q-TOF, which provides both structural information and reproducible profile with quantitative manner.  

These developments have enabled Lee and others to determine the exact types of milk glycolipids that are correlated to physiological stage such as lactation.  In this way the potential effects of glycolipids may begin to be understood.  Lee and her colleagues are currently studying several such effects, including the capability of glycolipids to bind toxins—which might protect the individual from various pathogens—as well as their involvement in cell differentiation, and the effects “Neu5Gc-containing glycolipids” have on various aspects of human physiology.  For instance, Lee and others are investigating an apparent association between the presence Neu5Gc-containing glycolipids and the incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Lee looks forward to applying her analytical technique to her glycolipid studies in the future in an effort to solve the mysteries surrounding the structure and function of glycolipids.