Azusa Pacific students Nathan Suiter ’22, a resident of Puyallup, Wash., and Nayree Panossian ’22, a resident of Duarte, Calif., were accepted as fellows in the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program to conduct research under the guidance of Sandar Volkan-Kacso, PhD, associate professor of physics, in APU’s Department of Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics. This summer, Suiter and Panossian will receive funding to continue their research on F-ATP synthase, an essential enzyme in all known forms of life.

“This experience will grow these students, deepening their understanding of research and analytical skills, as well as preparing them for their future career paths,” said Volkan-Kacso. “In addition, it strengthens the partnership between APU and Caltech as we look ahead to more research opportunities.”

During the SURF program, Panossian and Suiter will continue their data analysis, develop theories, and conduct tests, using APU’s new super computer to run large-scale simulations. In addition, both students will receive a $6,620 award for the 10-week period, attend weekly seminars led by Caltech faculty and Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists and engineers, and engage in an academic and professional development series.

Suiter and Panossian will advance their research on the F-ATP synthase, also known as F-ATPase. This enzyme—found in bacteria, the chloroplast of green plants, and eukaryotic cells—uses motors to synthesize ATP, energy-carrying molecules. In short, these tiny motors, just a few nanometers across, are essential to life.

“Biological motors are basically protein molecules that organize into nanometer structures and perform functions of life such as muscle contraction, motion of cells, division of cell, wound healing, DNA repair, and the list goes on,” said Volkan-Kacso. “These motors rotate or move along molecular tracks in the cell using chemical energy to do so.”

Volkan-Kacso said that Suiter and Panossian are among the many students at APU involved with cutting-edge research in the STEM fields.

“It is very inspiring to see our students demonstrate high levels of interest, care, and drive in our research together,” said Volkan-Kacso. “Their energy and new ideas often drive the process forward, and I am excited to see what their futures hold.”

Azusa Pacific University has earned an R2 designation from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the most influential rating organization among colleges and universities, for its high research activity. This recognition heralds good news for current and prospective APU students seeking academic programs at the forefront of their fields. Students’ ability to engage in a high level of research with faculty members who are leaders in their industries translates to richer learning opportunities and better marketability upon graduation.