June 29- Day 17: Crossville TN to Manchester TN: down to single digits

We are counting down to July 8, our last day. Today marks our 17th day, so we only have 9 days left – down to single digits! Today the ride was spectacular. The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining over the hilly landscape, the pavement was smooth, the shoulders were broad, and the winds were behind us – they pushed us all the way to Manchester. This was a great active recovery day after our hilly 100 yesterday. It’s funny how fast the day goes when conditions are perfect. We did run across a town called Pleasant Hill – we did not think there were any pleasant hills after yesterday – and we got a big laugh out of it. Also, Renate got her first flat tire! Must have been a result of her boasting about no flats in yesterday’s blog.

No such thing as a pleasant hill.


We had a wonderful dinner in Nashville with Gregg, a Notre Dame alumnus, and Louise and their daughter Abigail; Pat, a Notre Dame alumnus, and Sue and their daughter Annie, who is studying Science Business and will graduate in 2014; Christopher, a Notre Dame alumnus; and Katie, a Saint Mary’s alumna. We had great food and terrific conversations about ND, the Science Business major, start-up companies from universities, and of course our ride and cause. Ally and Abigail are the same age and had great conversations of their own about sports, school, summer plans, and Ally’s role in the ride. Abigail presented Ally with her first cowboy hat at the end of the evening. Everyone was excited to see the van, and we collected eight more signatures. The attraction of being able to write on a vehicle is too great for anyone to pass up.

Dinner in Nashville


Annie (Science Business '14) with Greg


Abigail and Ally


In the last post, I mentioned a Cell Biology project that Professor Kevin Vaughan mentored, and I wanted to tell you some more details. The Cell Biology laboratory, directed by Professor Michelle Whaley, is an opportunity for undergraduates to experience real basic research – investigating the background, reading the literature and designing the experiment with the guidance of a mentor. The students defend their findings in a poster presentation meeting at the end of the semester.

In this case, Professor Vaughan mentored undergraduates Alexandria Brumfield, Jason Kippenbrock, Meredith Kugar, Alejandro Vargas and Anna Wehry, with graduate teaching assistant Ali Raja and undergraduate teaching assistant David Hurley. They called their project “Effect of StARD9 Knockdown on Cholesterol Accumulation and Membrane Tubule Formation,” because mass spectrometry had revealed that the protein StARD9 is missing from NPC cells.

The genetic defect that causes NPC has to do with a failure of cells to process cholesterol. The students proposed that the StARD9 protein interacts directly or indirectly with the NPC1 protein to facilitate cholesterol transport. Although no experimental research has been carried out on the relationship between the NPC1 mutation and StARD9, their findings suggest that StARD9 plays a role in cholesterol trafficking using membrane tubules within the cell.

Prof. Michelle Whaley (center) instructs students.


I’m so proud of Michelle’s program and her collaborators that give Notre Dame undergraduates such an opportunity to do groundbreaking scientific research. And I’m so proud of the undergraduates who put so much effort into helping all of us in this fight that is so important for so many families.

1 Comment so far

  1.    Gary on July 4th, 2011

    I think I saw y’all changing tires. Were you in Henderson, TN at the time? I know you were stopped there for a few minutes. Had time to read the web address and find out about your terrific work. Keep on riding!