February 2023 Student Spotlight
Describe your research/creative scholarship in a few sentences that we can all understand: I am synthesizing a drug using hyaluronic acid (the skin care ingredient!), and deferoxamine (a bacterial siderophore), with the potential to regenerate bones where fractures fail to heal after a long period of time. This is helpful for individuals undergoing radiotherapy which weakens their bones, making them more prone to fracture. This implantable drug formulation has facilitated fracture healing in rat mandibles, and if translated successfully into clinical practice, it could benefit millions of patients.
Q: What does your research look like on a day-to-day basis? What do you spend most of your time doing?
A: My project requires me to be physically in the lab for every aspect of it, where I am usually doing organic chemistry reactions to synthesise new batches of my drugs. I also do optimization studies on my batches from time to time, employing NMR (Nuclear Magentic Resonance), HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography), UV spectrophotometry, and gel electrophoresis among other techniques.
Q: Who mentors your project?
A: Dr. Laird Forrest
Q: What surprised you about doing a larger research or creative project?
A: I was surprised by how many concepts from my Chemistry and Biology classes at KU applied to my project, and saw how much I still need to learn. I did not expect working in the lab to become such a big part of my life, especially over breaks when I go in full time. However, I never regret any bit of the commitment because I learn something new everyday, whether it's the chemistry behind someone else's research project, or a new technique that I asked someone to teach me just for fun. It has allowed me to become so much better at reading scientific papers in the hopes of writing my own one day, and has made me deepen my understanding of Chemistry to think more critically every single day.
Q:What did you find most challenging about getting involved in or doing your project? What advice would you offer to students facing similar challenges?
A: The most challenging part was reaching out to a mentor and starting a research project. If you have never done research before, it can seem very intimidating to ask a professor to join their project, and you might have a lot of self-doubt about your ability to work in the lab. It's important to remember that everyone starts somewhere with zero experience, and it's okay to not be perfect at something right when you start it. Don't be afraid to email professors to join their labs, and if they take you on, they will eventually teach you all the important procedures for your project, making you a better researcher. All you have to do is start.
Q: What do you like most about your project?
A: I like the flexibility of my hours, and the ability to craft my own schedule of when I want to come in to the lab and work. I am a full-time student with other extracurricular commitments, but I've still been able to keep the project on track by going in whenever I can. I have come to like pharmaceutical chemistry research because of my project as I genuinely enjoy employing all the techniques and synthesizing the drug hydrogels. I also love reading scientific papers from people who have done similar research, as they are doing incredible work.
Q: How do you spend your time when you’re not working on your project?
A: I love playing badminton and making TikTok videos for my account, where I post about my research and tons of STEM jokes. I have 16,000 followers right now, but I hope to grow it in the future.