Summary: Starch is the major source to provide blood glucose, which is a primary energy for the brain and other vital organs. Glucose also functions as a biomolecule to trigger many physiologic responses and affect health. The human body has a very complicated digestive system to break down starch, which is a huge polymer with sophisticated molecular architecture, to a single absorbable glucose. Overconsuming rapidly digestible starch is associated with some health concerns such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, missing starch in the daily life also generates many medical issues related to malnutrition, especially in the young child. My research in this area is to elucidate the relationship between starch fine molecular structure and digestive enzymes – alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase. The major implications are to:
1. providing a solution to the high-glycemic response related health concerns, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, from a food approach, and
2. providing a suggestion to malnutrition related medical issues, especially in the young child.

Minimum classes: Freshman chemistry with a laboratory course. Biochemistry with a laboratory course.

Projects: The potential summer project is to identify what starch foods can we feed the young child with the Congenital Sucrase-isomaltase Deficiency (CSID). CSID is a digestive disease caused by mutation of the Sucrase-isomaltase (SI) gene. Patients with CSID have reduced or completely absent SI activity, which leads to maldigestion of sugar (sucrose) and starchy foods. When consuming foods containing sugar or starch, patients have symptoms such as chronic watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, and bloating. Another potential project is to characterize the digestion mechanism of human pancreatic alpha-amylase. The Fellow will receive a set of solid lab training such as lab safety, writing lab notes, using auto-pipettes (a critical skill to succeed this project), searching and studying literature, writing reports and presenting research. The Fellow will closely work with a team. He/she will perform chemical and enzymatic assays and use a centrifuge, microplate reader, spectrophotometer, glucometer, evaporator, water bath, pH meter, and HPLC.

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