Lindsey Brier

Undergraduate Researcher: Lindsey Brier

About Me

Lindsey BrierThis is my third year at UH, and I plan to graduate in May of 2014 with a degree in Mathematical Biology (Chemistry minor). My most immediate goal is to earn a fellowship to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry at either UC San Francisco or at the University of Michigan. I hope to end up with a job at a pharmaceutical company, but I am still considering the world of academia. Apart from schoolwork, I play French horn in the Symphonic Winds performing ensemble in the Moore’s School of Music as a “hobby,” but it is really an equally important part of my schooling here.

2013 Goldwater Scholar

UH Math Biology Major Receives Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

Lindsey Brier Named 2013-14 Goldwater Scholar

Meet Lindsey Brier: 2013 Goldwater Scholar

2013 Goldwater Scholarship Nomination

27th National Conference on Undergraduate Research Recap

How did you get started with research?
My older brother has long been involved in research and advised me to do the same. I started off assisting a graduate student in a human physiology lab last year. Even though it was a great learning experience, it was not quite in the field I was looking for. The work I did this summer is what really convinced me to pursue a Ph.D. track instead of an M.D. Being completely honest, I applied to summer research programs at UC San Francisco and other UC schools because I thought it would be fun to spend a summer there.

Where and when have you done/are doing research?
I worked in Dr. Brian McFarlin’s lab last year, here at UH. This summer I completed the Summer Research Training Program at UCSF (under the guidance of Dr. Matthew Jacobson), and I am continuing in a similar field back at UH in Dr. James Briggs’ lab.

What type of research have you conducted/are conducting?
At UCSF, I worked in a pharmaceutical chemistry lab, using a computational approach in the field of drug design. I worked on two projects; both involved unfolding the mechanisms of membrane translocation of biological substrates. One project dealt with using homology modeling and molecular docking of a family of drug resistance transporters largely involved with chemotherapeutic resistance (subfamily of P-Glycoprotein), and the other dealt with using a physics-based permeability model to predict relative permeability of macrocyclic natural products.

Here, I am continuing in a computational lab focusing on the mechanistic effects of toxicity of the cholera toxin versus the highly similar, but less deadly, enterotoxin. We are hoping to use electrostatic mapping and molecular dynamics to better understand the overall mechanism of action and specifically the characteristic KDEL tail elongation that has been highly conserved throughout evolution.

What places/conferences have you presented/will present your research at?
I gave many presentations this summer to different groups of people at UCSF. This included a specific lab presentation, a program oral presentation, and a program poster session held at the many different locations UCSF has in the city. I have also been a participant here at Undergraduate Research Day and have presented at the annual KECK conference held at Rice University.

What have you learned from your experiences?
That you can learn about a thousand more things working on a project than you can reading a textbook or sitting in a class. Also, if you don’t get error messages or failed experiments, you’re doing it wrong.

How does your research translate to the outside world?
The overall purpose of researching the substrate affinity and binding behavior of the homologous transporters to P-Glycoprotein is to learn more about the human body’s natural tendency to reject chemotherapeutics. Knowing what these efflux pumps will push out of the cell is the first step to designing a drug that can work around this effect. The research done with cholera toxin has similar applications. A better understanding of its toxic mechanism can lead to better treatment ideas.

Being able to apply a physics-based approach to drug testing can save an extremely large sum of money and time. Of course, wet lab experiments can and have been used to back up the accuracy of using this approach, but the efficiency of drug testing can be increased in this way. If it doesn’t add up, why try it?

Any poignant moments you would like to share?
Another thing I learned is that labs can be comfortable to sleep in. Especially when all the data for your project finally comes and your poster template needed to be in to the overnight guy two hours ago…

Should other students conduct research, and if yes why?
Yes, because everybody is guilty of cramming for exams and then dumping out all the information afterwards. Conducting research forces you to gather background information and then use it to reach a goal that takes a good amount of your time. Once you’re done, you have to talk about it and share what you’ve discovered and maybe write a paper. It’s hard to forget all that. Plus, you get to experience firsthand real life applications of topics taught in class.

Also, it’s a good idea to take advantage of these summer programs. You get paid to do research and go somewhere cool you may not have gone to otherwise for free. The networking possibilities are endless and can help you get where you want to go.


-Ton La, Jr.