This summer I did a research internship at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA through their Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. I worked on a project this summer that focused on finding better drug therapies for Ebola virus and other filoviruses. Specifically, I looked at antibodies from human survivors of Ebola and other filoviruses, then mapped how they interacted with a protein expressed on the surface of the viruses that’s responsible for allowing the virus to infect cells using electron microscopy to produce 3-D images of the complex. This provides more information as to whether the antibody will be a good candidate for use in a therapeutic cocktail.
This internship had a profound impact on my professional development! I’m very interested in studying the immune system and viruses at the molecular level to gain a better understanding of how they work, and this internship allowed me to gain experience in the exact area of research I’m interested in.
My job at Pfizer Consumer Healthcare is to assist in the structure elucidation efforts of the Materials and Product Chemistry team. Structure elucidation consists of using HPLC/MS, preparative LC, MS/MS, and NMR to characterize unknown degradants in our over the counter prototypes. This summer I also got the opportunity to learn more about GC-MS, and I hope to use the instrument in future projects involving solid-phase microextraction (SPME) fibers. My experiences at Pfizer have helped prepare me for pharmacy school by encouraging me to think critically and to work independently. Working at Pfizer has also been a great opportunity for me to use what i’ve learned in the classroom and apply it in a real lab setting.
This summer, I was able to continue research that I had started through Independent Study with Dr. Gronert in my junior year. I worked on a mass spectrometer looking at reaction rates of organic molecules in gas-phase. In addition, I started a new project of at isolating an organic dianion and a small metal cation (such as Li+ or Na+) in the mass spectrometer in order to study different types of reactions. Doing research over the summer allowed for me to focus on the research and apply different concepts I learned in my classes at VCU to these two projects. Doing research has definitely broadened my interest in chemistry and I feel as though working in a lab has led me to pursue a PhD in chemistry.
I had the pleasure of working in the Department of Chemistry with Dr. Heather Lucas, conducting research related to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. With these diseases, along with the process of aging, the cellular organelle called the mitochondrion becomes dysfunctional likely due to faulty electron transfer of one of the mitochondrial enzymes. Interestingly, if laser light is used to irradiate dysfunctional cells, this electron transfer is rejuvenated and the mitochondria become fully functional again. My active role in the Lucas lab was (and still is) to analyze the chemistry behind this electron transfer via laser light through a hetero-bimetallic synthetic model that mimics this particular enzyme’s catalysis.
This research opportunity has given me a chance to develop my ability to think critically and allowing me to effectively solve everyday problems, a “must-have” skill in the professional world. There are numerous skills that I have developed that give me an upper-hand professionally. The most relevant concept that I have come to learn while conducting research is the power to touch the minds of others with knowledge that can influence behaviors that may lead to the betterment of mankind. This is a skill that every competent chemist, biologist, physicist, physician or any professional should have.
This summer I did undergraduate research in Dr. Alvarez’s lab. I learned how to use an electrochemical technique called cyclic voltammetry. The experience was enriching towards my knowledge because a lot of the chemistry involved in the technique was outside of my scope. It required me to take the chemistry I knew, and apply it to this unfamiliar area of chemistry. The best part of research was working in a lab where experiments are not designed to succeed. I enjoyed the mystery that each experiment presented and the investigation process that followed. All in all, this experience strengthened my desire to pursue a career in research.
Last semester I was awarded the 2015 EXROP Award through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in which I was placed at the University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign to participate in research within their chemistry department this past summer. My research focused on studying a specific sulfite reductase by engineering functional mimics in simpler well-known proteins. The summer program gave me the opportunity to explore different areas of chemistry research and diversified my knowledge for approaching future research projects. This summer has been especially helpful in guiding my endeavors to attend graduate school and, ultimately, obtain my Ph.D in a particular field of chemistry.
This summer I went to Auburn University to do research. I worked in Harrison School of Pharmacy for ten weeks. My research was about metastatic melanoma treatments, often targeting malfunctioning ErbB4 receptors. My research consisted of High Throughput Screening. I used sandwich ELISAs and ran stimulations on a robot. I worked alongside a graduate student of chemical engineering, Richard Cullum, and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs of the Pharmacy School, Dr. Riese. This experience has greatly added to my professional development because I received hands on experience in a wet lab, but it also showed me what was expected of a graduate student. It helped me discover if I think research is for me. Often it can be very frustrating when you don’t receive immediate results, but the breakthrough is what makes it all worth it.