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Isabella Jennings & Melinda Samaratunga

Project Summary

Antibacterial resistance poses a serious threat to patients by rendering standard treatments ineffective. The use of antibiotics causes resistance to develop, as bacteria with advantageous genetic mutations survive antibiotic treatment regimens and pass their resistance on to future generations. These mutations are often found on transferrable gene cassettes, which further increases the rate at which resistance spreads. The continued use of antibiotics facilitates the inevitable evolution of resistant bacteria. Because of the threat resistant bacteria pose to patients, a solution must be developed to combat resistance and return antibiotics to their previous efficacy.

          This study reports the testing of several compounds through spectrophotometric assays and molecular dynamics simulations on a supercomputer to evaluate the effects that different inhibitors have on the IMP-1 metallo-β-lactamases, a type of enzyme that causes dangerous antibacterial resistance by breaking down antibiotics. Analysis of the molecular dynamics and enzyme kinetics identified key mechanisms in the inhibition of these enzymes, providing vital knowledge for the design of effective inhibitors that could be co-administered to restore the activity of antibiotics.

 Isabella Jennings

My name is Isabella, and I am a senior in my second year of Advanced Science Research. I love working with compounds on a molecular level to address some of the biggest healthcare problems that we face today, and chemistry is my favorite scientific discipline. Outside of science research, I am captain of the Breck Stampede robotics team, leading the drivetrain and electronics sub-team, and I have played the flute in our band for the last eight years. 

   Melinda Samaratunga

My name is Melinda Samaratunga, and I am a junior in my first year of Breck’s Advanced Science Research Program. My specific interests include biology and environmental science. I enjoy being involved in activities at Breck such as BATO BATO!, tennis, and mock trial. Outside of school, I have been taking voice lessons for seven years, and I am involved in MacPhail’s Prelude program. I also created a tea business with my siblings called SrimaTea ( I am excited to continue science research through Breck’s program.
"Insert witty quote here."
"Through being a part of Advanced Science Research, I have learned to advocate for myself. I faced challenges, but it instilled in me important skills such as resilience, humility, and communication. This program has given me an incredible opportunity to hear distinguished guests present to us and practice my own presentation skills. Being in Advanced Science Research taught me about myself, how strong I can be, and how much I can improve in a year."
Honors & Awards

Isabella Jennings (2017) & Melinda Samaratunga (2018) worked at the Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota under the guidance of Dr. Yuk Sham. Melinda will continue research in high school and is considering continuing research during college. Isabella plans to continue research in college.

Twin Cities Regional Science Fair

  • U.S. Metric Association Award
  • Top ribbon signifying qualification to the Minnesota State Science Fair Competition in March
  • Research Paper Competition Finalist signifying qualification to the North Central Tri-State Junior Science & Humanities Symposium in March
Tri-State Junior Science and Humanities Symposium
  • North Central Tri-State Junior Science and Humanities Symposium participants

State Science and Engineering Fair
  • Minnesota State Science and Engineering Fair participants