Having a master’s degree in architecture and a doctoral degree in engineering has helped School of Architecture professor Ivan Markov better understand the widespread gap between the two disciplines. To bridge this gap, he developed an elective course in masonry structures that allowed him to put his experience to work. In the five years he’s taught the class, Markov has seen enrollment grow from a dozen students to about 40, making it the largest masonry course in New York State. He attributes the growth to the course’s structure and content. "Students enjoy the combination of theoretical and practical approaches," Markov says. "It’s not enough for students to merely see things, they have to build them to fully appreciate them."

Markov emphasizes four components in the course, believing students learn best through a combination of classroom instruction, guest lectures, site visits, and hands-on projects. He brings in local architects, contractors, and engineers, and the class visits masonry construction sites on campus and at places like Syracuse’s P&C Stadium. The class also visits such local companies as Barnes & Cone, Steps Plus, Paragon Supply, and Clark Concrete Company. At the end of the semester, the students put their knowledge to work in a hands-on competition. After dividing into groups, they design a masonry detail, specify the materials, and then build the details. The students are graded by a jury that includes faculty, local architects, contractors, and masonry experts. "The grades are based on creativity, complexity, aesthetics, craftsmanship, and code compliance," Markov says.

This year the competition was held on campus for the first time. Thirty-nine students, working in six groups, built different masonry walls, a pier, and a sculpture in 3 1/2 hours. The students’ works, built in a space behind Archbold Gym, were on display for several weeks.

Jeff Keenan G’00 hopes to use the principles he learned in class out in the field. "Masonry is one of the most used building materials in this country, so I know I will be exposed to it in the future," he says. "Syracuse is one of the only schools to offer a class in just masonry construction, so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity."

mike prinzo

After each class, Markov selects one student to participate in the International Masonry Institute Camp in Maine. Jesse MacDougall ’01, who attended the conference last summer, took classes covering such masonry skills as brick laying and the use of terrazzo, mosaic flooring made of chips of marble and cement. The participants also designed a community facility and built an architectural detail of the design. MacDougall, whose grandfathers were both masons, worked with other architects and masons to quarry granite and build the structure using brick, concrete, and terrazzo. For MacDougall, the conference’s most important aspect was bringing architects and contractors together. "It helped improve communication between those who envision and those who execute," he says.

                                                  —DANIELLE K. JOHNSON


When Damian Fermin ’99 came to Syracuse University, he wanted to study genetics and DNA. Before graduating in December, he had made a significant contribution to the field. "I never dreamed I would end up discovering a gene," says Fermin, an Ornstein Scholar who majored in biochemistry.

Working with SU biology professor John Belote, Fermin spent two years searching for, and ultimately mapping, a gene that had not yet been identified in the species of fruit fly he was studying. "I wanted to work in Professor Belote’s lab," Fermin says. "I badgered him for four months until a spot opened up."

Belote’s research focuses on identifying genes that control a cellular component called proteasome. Proteasomes, which are found in all organisms, including humans, help cells dispose of damaged or unwanted proteins that, if unchecked, could kill cells. Enzymes within cells attach chemical flags to damaged proteins. Proteasomes recognize the flags, grab the proteins, and chop them into harmless amino acids. Proteasomes have two major components: a central core, which contains 14 different gene products, and two regulatory caps located on either end of the core.

It is believed that the regulatory caps contain about 15 different gene products. Belote is collaborating with University of Massachusetts researchers to identify and study the genes that control the regulatory caps. The scientists use fruit flies for their DNA studies because the insects’ genes can be easily manipulated in experiments. "We have isolated a gene specifying a sub-unit of the regulatory cap called SUG-1," Belote says. "When we were studying this gene, we found what appeared to be a closely related gene on a different chromosome, but we could not identify it. I challenged Damian to try to isolate this gene so we could determine what relationship it might have to the proteasome."

Fermin accepted the challenge. After studying proteasomes and brushing up on experiments and laboratory techniques involved in genetics work, he extracted DNA from the fruit flies, inserted the DNA samples into bacteria on petri dishes in an effort to reproduce the gene, used a radioactive DNA probe to locate the gene, and purified samples he believed contained the gene. "Of the more than 200,000 colonies of bacteria I cultured, only 6 bound to the DNA probe," Fermin says. "I purified those 6 samples by reproducing them and starting the process all over again."

After more than a year of experiments, Fermin ended up with two colonies that he believed contained the gene. In the project’s second phase, he grew multiple copies of the two colonies, using special enzymes to cut their DNA samples into smaller segments and separating the DNA into fragments that could be sequenced to determine which protein the gene encoded.

Ultimately, the gene Fermin found was not the one the researchers had originally sought, but it was similar to a proteasome gene called Tat Binding Protein I (TBP I) found in humans. "No one had ever identified the TBP I proteasome gene in fruit flies," Belote says. "The gene Damian found is new."
                                                      —JUDY HOLMES

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