About UAlberta's Augustana Campus

Brian-Rempel-portrait

Brian Rempel, PhD, BSc (Honours)

Associate Professor/Chemistry

Augustana Campus

Science

About Me

I grew up in Edmonton, and I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Alberta (1999-2003). During my time at the UofA, I had the privilege of doing research work with three exceptional mentors:

- Dr. Ole Hindsgaul. My projects with Dr. Hindsgaul focused on measuring binding of carbohydrate ligands to lectins using Frontal Affinity Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (FAC-MS).

- Dr. Monica Palcic. Under Dr. Palcic's supervision, I explored using Capillary Electrophoresis for single cell assays for glycosyltransferase activity, and also the expression and purification of some glycosyltransferase mutants.

- Dr. Rik Tykwinski. My work with Dr. Tykwinski was focused on measuring the stereospecificity of a series of chiral iodonium oxidants for chiral resolution of enantiomeric mixtures of alcohols.

Following my B.Sc. from the UofA, I moved to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver to work on my Ph.D. (2003-2009) under the supervision of  Dr. Stephen Withers, a world expert on the enzymes responsible for the formation and breakdown of carbohydrates. My project was on investigations of fluorinated sugars as potential diagnostic and therapeutic agents in the treatment of Gauchers disease and Mucopolysaccharidosis I, two Lysosomal Storage Diseases.

Following my Ph.D. work, I came to Augustana to teach Organic and General Chemistry, where I have been since 2009.

Besides chemistry, I enjoy spending most of my free time playing with my children. I am also an avid reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and I enjoy playing a variety of cardgames and boardgames which typically have a Sci-Fi/Fantasy theme to them.


Research

Research

Nature uses enzymes to speed up chemical reactions. Among the most proficient enzymes are glycosidases: enzymes responsible for the hydrolysis of a glycosidic bond to release the aglycone from the sugar residue.

I am interested in developing tools for studying glycosidase activity through the development of inhibitors, mechanistic probes, or substrates for measuring activity. One group of enzymes I am interested in are the retaining human beta-glucosidases: GBA1, GBA2, and GBA3. Deficiencies in GBA1 activity in the lysosome can lead to Gauchers disease, which is one member of a class of disorders known as Lysosomal Storage Diseases. In Gauchers disease, a buildup of unprocessed glucosylceramide substrate (which arises from the lack of GBA1 activity in the lysosome) leads to disease symptoms, through a mechanism that is only partly understood. More recently, mutations in GBA1 have also been linked to Parkinsons disease, although the connection between GBA1 and the disease is still being investigated.

To help elucidate its role in disease, it is important to be able to accurately measure GBA1 activity and expression in both cells and live organisms. Therefore, inhibitors or substrates that can report on GBA1 will be useful tools in unravelling the biochemical role this enzyme plays in both healthy and diseased individuals. This is one of the present goals of my research program. I am developing new potential substrates for GBA1 that employ self-immolative linkers to append different reporters that could be used to measure GBA1 activity with the eventual goal of preparing a PET imaging agent for GBA1 activity.

As well, in collaboration with Dr. Chris Phenix at the University of Saskatchewan, we are developing N-alkyl conduritol aziridines, a new class of covalent inactivator specific for GBA1. We recently demonstrated that these compounds are powerful inactivators of GBA1, and we are currently investigating how to develop this scaffold into a PET imaging agent for GBA1.


Teaching

Currently, the courses I teach are:
•    AUCHE 110: General Chemistry I. Offered every year in the Fall term.
•    AUCHE 112: General Chemistry II. Offered every year in the Winter term.
•    AUCHE 250: Organic Chemistry I. Offered every year in the Fall term.
•    AUCHE 252: Organic Chemistry II. Offered every year in the Winter term.
•    AUCHE 350: Organic Chemistry III. Offered in the Winter term of odd-numbered calendar years.
•    AUCHE 450: Enzymes and Enzyme Mechanisms. Offered in the Winter term of even-numbered calendar years.
•    A variety of Directed Studies and Directed Reading courses, which are individually-tailored course typically focused on my research interests. Students interested in a paper-based or lab-based research course are encouraged to contact me.
•    AUIDS 101: Topics in Liberal Arts and Sciences: Drugs. This will be my offering of the new Augustana 1st-year seminar course. My section will be focused on drugs of use and abuse, biological and chemical properties of various drugs, and the role of drugs (both beneficial and detrimental) in society. This course will be offered in the Fall block in years when scheduling permits.
•    AUIDS 137: Science Laboratory Experiences. This is a laboratory-based course that is targeted at non-Science majors. I will be responsible for the chemistry labs in this course. It will be offered in the Winter block in years when scheduling permits.


As well, I am the faculty contact for the Chemistry Demonstration project in AUCSL 361. This project involves students researching, preparing, and performing chemistry demonstrations for children attending local schools. Students interested in joining this initiative should contact me or their Academic Advisor for more details.


I am very interested in helping students develop connections between the concepts they learn in chemistry and the world around them, and my first and second-year classes make sure to include at least one such connection every day. My classes feature active learning strategies including peer-led problem solving, student-marked quizzes, and student-generated problem sets.


Rather than holding traditional office hours, students wanting  to find me are always encouraged to "Find the Nerd" in the forum with my bright pink shirt.