Keeshan WilliamsKeeshan Williams

Ph.D. (3rd. year), Chemical & Biological Engineering

Year in graduate program: 5th. year (September 2006)
Research Topic: Bio-diagnostics
Partner School: Cripus Attucks PS 21
Partner Teacher: Donna Johnson
Email Keeshan


Keeshan's research is a combination of basic science and technology development for the analysis of protein-DNA bioaffinity reactions with electrochemical and related methods. Under the guidance of Prof. Rastislav Levicky, he is focused on the development of technologies that can analyze protein-DNA bioaffinity interactions on a high throughput scale, in real time, and in a cost effective manner. Using electrochemical techniques, he aims to monitor the interaction of surface bound DNA with transcription factors (i.e. gene regulatory proteins) that are present in bulk solution. By examining changes in molecular dynamics of the immobilized DNA molecules, Keeshan seeks to develop methods and technologies to not only track protein binding, but to extract quantitative thermodynamic and kinetic information on the energies and complexation times of DNA and proteins. Such information is critical for understanding the complex pathways that govern biological function, such as in the treatment of diseases. The broader implications of this research enter through improved understanding of gene expression regulation, with applications to fundamental biology, medical diagnostics, and bioprocess-based manufacture.

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Figure: Analytical device comprising a biological recognition element (e.g. DNA), connected to a power source via a gold electrode, to analyze chemical properties or quantities.

Integration in The Class Room

Keeshan introduces fundamental concepts of his research on biosensor technologies to elementary school students via in-class demonstrations and activities. Additionally, he incorporates a hand-on approach to the basic components of math and science to help illustrate the fundamentals of his research as well as the relevance of these phenomena at the post-secondary level of study. For example, in a 3rd grade science class, he discusses concepts such as electricity and the critical role it plays in devices that function in aqueous environment, such as biosensors. As an in-class activity, students learn about the factors that influence the passage of current through a liquid medium as they construct a conductivity meter, and use it to estimate the total amount of salt in common items, such as Gatorade. Moreover, he uses mechatronics and robotics based platforms, such as the Basic Stamp Microcontroller and Lego Mindstorms NXT to develop sensor based activities to help reinforce components of the students' curriculum. For example, working with another GK-12 Fellow (Nicole Abaid) in a 7th grade classroom, he helped develop an activity to measure the acceleration due to gravity, g, using Lego Mindstorms NXT and its components as the experimental apparatus. Through in-class, hands-on, sensor based experiments, Keeshan allows his students to see the connection between the content taught in the classroom and real-world applications.

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Figure: Keeshan is explaining the concepts of energy storage in a battery to a 3rd grade science class. He demonstrates the use of a multimeter, and how it helps scientists and engineers gain information about electrical components.

1 - AMPS Fellow; 2 - CBRI Fellow