Name: Chris Manieri, ’10
Major: Music, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Academics: Music Grant
Activities: Phi Gamma Delta
Intramural Volleyball
Wind Ensemble
Jazz Band
Pep Band
Gamelan Ensemble

Chris Manieri spent the summer doing research with chemistry professor Jonathan Dattlebaum on a project called “Identification of Unknown Carotenoids Associated with Chesapeake Bay Sponges, Clathria Prolifera and Halocondria bowerbanki.” Manieri, whose research was funded by Merck, presented his project at the 2008 Science Symposium in September and gave a talk on his research with Dattelbaum at an HHMI Research Introduction seminar in October.

Tell us about this summer’s research project.

My project, which uses the sponge species Clathria Prolifera, is nicknamed “the heating experiment.” Malcolm Hill in biology and Jonathan Dattelbaum in chemistry have collaborated to ask questions about how metabolites produced by the sponge and sponge-associated bacteria are affected by different environmental conditions.

We grew the sponge at a normal Chesapeake Bay temperature and an increased temperature of two degrees Celsius. Using high performance liquid chromatography, we found variations in the amount of carotenoids produced by the two different conditions. My job is to isolate the carotenoids that showed concentration differences and then to identify them using chemistry techniques that I have been learning in the lab over the past two years.

And you had a second project?

Yes, my second project, the Halocondria bowerbanki sponge, contains bacterial symbionts that produce pigments that may be responsible for their color. My project was to isolate a compound from a bacteria called HB301 and to identify it using chemistry techiques similar to my first project.

How did you get involved in the project?

I got an offer to get involved in this project when a student graduated from the lab in the spring. I was interested because it sounded like a challenge and I would be using the instruments and the techniques I'd learned in the classroom. I chose to do research this summer because I had a great time last summer working on a different project. And research definitely sounded better than working at Chuck E. Cheese. Dr. Dattelbaum, who is my chemistry professor, research advisor and racketball partner, encouraged me to go for this and agreed about the Chuck E. Cheese part!

What (or who) prepared you for this opportunity?

There are two people who prepared me for research. Dr. Runyen-Janecky was my freshman year genetics professor and she helped me understand how undergraduate research works and encouraged me to meet more professors. Dr. Dattelbaum also talked with me about his research and found a last-minute grant to fund me for the summer. Also, the techniques I learned in organic chemistry helped me better understand the research process.

How do you see this project contributing to your collegiate success during the rest of your time at Richmond?

My research has helped me become better with note-taking and with scientific thinking outside of the traditional textbook/classroom method. I am able to talk to other professors (and hopefully medical schools) about the work I have done, and I will have my work published by the end of next year. I think that the research opportunities at this institution put us ahead of other students that may get the same education inside a classroom.

You’ve got a crystal ball. What’s in store for you after graduation?

Well, I will have acceptance letters at the top six medical schools in the country and will be debating which one to attend! Also, I will be able to bench 175 pounds and compose my first opus, probably in a minor key.

A full day of research lies ahead of you. What’s on your iPod?

John Mayer, Brahms, Debussy, Maroon 5, Yellowcard, The Hush Sound.

What has a liberal arts education at the University of Richmond meant to you?

The first thing I tell people when they ask about the education I am getting is that I am a music major and a biochemistry major. This university is able to educate me in all the ways that I am interested in and makes me feel that I don't need to spread myself too thin. A liberal arts education makes every interest an equal one, giving you time to focus on what you want to work on.