Wednesday, May 1, 2013

URSP Student Tommy Eales Researches Protein Biochemistry

I first became interested in doing research while taking a chemistry course with one of Mason’s
research faculty members. To promote an interest in scholarly activity, the professor asked the class to complete an assignment involving the proposal of an independent research project. For my project, I researched protein biochemistry, an area of personal interest. After reviewing my work, the professor suggested that I speak with Dr. Bishop- Mason’s protein biochemistry specialist. I met with Dr. Bishop shortly thereafter, and have been working with him ever since.

In many ways, my involvement in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program represents the capstone of my undergraduate research experience at Mason. I have been working with Dr. Bishop for the majority of my undergraduate career, and strongly believe that research has added significant value to my undergraduate experience. This work has enabled me to grow as both a student and as a scientist, providing me with invaluable skills that will benefit me throughout my entire career.

In general, my project involves the use of analytical biochemistry techniques to characterize the
functional group content within hydrogel particles engineered to selectively harvest target biomolecules from complex mixtures. My long-term goal is to become a great physician. Although my research does not directly involve medicine, the skills developed through research are critical to the successful practice of medicine. I have learned how to identify problems, how to develop and execute a plan to address these problems, and how to then evaluate and interpret the results. This skill set is critical to success in every professional field. In this regard, my research has played a critical role in my preparation for a career in medicine.

My typical week consists of preparing synthetic reactions, using analytical techniques to acquire
descriptive data about the synthesis products, and interpreting the collected data. Each phase of research has its high and low points. For example, setting up and conducting a synthesis reaction can be fun, but working up a synthesis reaction can be miserable. In the same way, interpreting the results of a chemical analysis can be intellectually stimulating and challenging, while the process of applying the analytical techniques to a sample can often be repetitive and time consuming.

One thing I discovered this week is that the analytical technique I have been developing can be
applied in a much more broad manner than I previously expected. This is very good news, as it means that the work will have a greater impact. Overall, this was a very good week for my research!