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UAMS Researcher and Hendrix College Professor Receive National Science Foundation Grant to Study DNA

Gunderson, Julie-1_2017_web.jpgCONWAY, Ark. (August 6, 2019) – Dr. Robert Eoff of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Hendrix College physics professor Dr. Julie Gunderson ’06 have received a $1.2-million grant award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a study titled “Replication of G-quadruplex DNA by translesion polymerases.” The project is jointly funded by the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Division and the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

Understanding how cells replicate guanine-rich sequences of DNA is the focus of this research. Guanine-rich sequences form non-canonical structures called G-quadruplexes, Gunderson explained, meaning they do not resemble the double helix form typically associated with DNA. Failure to correctly copy guanine-rich sequences can lead to changes in the genome that are associated with human disease.

Gunderson will administer approximately $162,000 of the NSF grant. These funds will support the participation of two Hendrix student researchers in the program each year, for a total of eight students with direct involvement over the course of the grant’s four-year term. The students’ work during the fall and spring semesters will culminate in a 10-week Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at UAMS. They will have opportunities to learn not only through research training that involves rigorous biophysical and biochemical analysis, but also through gaining experience in presenting the results of their work at seminars and symposia. 

Support from the NIH-funded Arkansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program has paved the way for this collaboration, Gunderson said. 

“Grant support from the Arkansas INBRE program has allowed me to set up a laboratory to carry out robust biophysical studies at Hendrix, which students can get involved in throughout the academic year,” she said. “Providing opportunities for Hendrix students to get involved in original research is important because these types of experiential learning opportunities allow students to apply their knowledge to solve real-world problems. In addition, undergraduate research experiences help students develop career skills that will prepare them for success regardless of the path that they take after college.”

Gunderson, who is a molecular biophysicist, will also spend two months each summer working in the Eoff laboratory at UAMS thanks to the NSF funding. “I’ll be able to expand my expertise through work on this grant, which will benefit my students at Hendrix,” she said, noting that as an educator, she finds it useful to wrestle with new information. “Working through this process allows me greater empathy with my students, and it ultimately makes me a better teacher.”

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit