T.C. Owen Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award
I have been involved in undergraduate research at the University of South Florida since my second semester in my freshman year. I have worked in a natural-products “traditional” organic wet-lab as well as most of my time has been spent in the computational lab. Under the guidance and direction of Dr. H. Lee Woodcock and graduate mentor Dr. Sai Lakshmana Vankayala, I have been involved in two prior computational projects and we are soon beginning another. Since I began in the Woodcock lab, I have learned many computational techniques including basics in bioinformatics, docking studies and binding mode analyses (with Schrodinger), MD Simulations (in CHARMM) and QM/MM (using QChem).
The research I have been involved in is fascinating! In the spirit of interdisciplinary research: we have used computational techniques to solve an ecological chemistry problem posed by Dr. Bill J. Baker (natural products chemist). In another work, I have used computational methods to model the interaction of hydroxyurea and catalase to release nitric oxide. The purpose in this work is to understand how hydroxyurea functions as a treatment for sickle-cell disease. Using conclusions from this work we will propose analogs to hydroxyurea that are likely to be more efficient treatments for sickle-cell.
As a junior now, I feel I have been incredibly fortunate to have such diverse opportunities for undergraduate research at USF. Furthermore, I feel so lucky that I have found a group of advisors—both faculty and graduate students—that are a dedicated support system; because of them, I have been able to experience a world of research in many fascinating and challenging areas including one of the fastest growing areas of chemistry.
It is my dream to earn my Ph.D. in chemistry and continue research in computational chemistry. I hope to, in the future, use computational techniques as well as experimental techniques to understand protein folding and reaction mechanisms, or design and optimize pharmaceuticals and pesticides, or design alternative energy resources, or possibly model and understand metal organic materials for optimizing properties. Though it is hard to say now what areas of chemistry I will become entwined with in the future, I know for sure that I am headed for a career in chemistry research.