Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Min Han

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Martin

Third Advisor

Dr. Joseph Falke


Coffee is consumed by many, but the health benefits of coffee are largely unknown. Epidemiological studies have revealed that coffee may play a preventative role against various diseases. I utilize the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to further investigate the preventative or protective role of coffee against stress conditions. More specifically, I explore the possibility that coffee may protect against cadmium-induced stress. My data indicates that coffee treatment suppressed cadmium-induced stress in worms with the stress response ability compromised. Since no obvious negative impact of coffee treatment on development and reproductivity was observed, my data suggests that coffee likely plays a protective role against cadmium-induced stress. Analysis of the functional relationship between coffee and stress response kinases did not lead to a firm conclusion. However, I observed coffee enhances the cadmium-induced ROS response. A small screen was conducted to determine other stress response elements that could be involved in the protective effect. The results of this study may make an important contribution to our understanding of coffee’s impact on human health.