Maryland Section

My Experience as a SEED Program Intern

The ACS Project SEED summer research program opens new doors for economically disadvantaged students to experience what it’s like to be a chemist. Students entering their junior or senior year in high school are given a rare opportunity to work alongside scientist-mentors on research projects in industrial, academic, and federal laboratories, discovering new career paths as they approach critical turning points in their lives. Ms. Elizabeth Travis, a senior student at Institute of Notre Dame High School, was selected to do research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine this summer. The following is a report by Ms. Travis describing her exciting research experience.

This summer, I was given the extraordinary opportunity to work as an intern at the Brain Science Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine as part of the ACS Project SEED program. This newly-established institute aims to bridge the gap between basic science and therapeutic applications by providing expertise in drug discovery research.

For one of the two major projects I was assigned this summer, I worked with one of the core scientists, Ms. Bridget Duvall, to synthesize small organic molecules designed to inhibit an enzyme called glutamate carboxypeptidase II (GCPII). Under the close supervision of Ms. Duvall, I made three small-molecule GCPII inhibitors. The synthesis of each compound I made required six sequential reactions. I also helped Ms. Duvall make some starting material for her own experiments in order to learn more about basic lab techniques. After spending an entire summer synthesizing three compounds, I have a better appreciation for the work it takes to create novel drugs.

For my other project, I was asked to inventory recently purchased chemicals (~200 bottles). The chemistry group maintains a library of thousands of chemical reagents. The group uses a very sophisticated database system to keep track of each bottle. The database can help the chemists locate chemicals they may need for their experiments. It can be searched by name, CAS number, structure (or substructure), vendor or by many other criteria. This helped me gain experience in not only drawing structures, but also relating structures to molecular names and the molecular formula. Also, I felt I did something useful for chemists in the group because now they can search the database with the additional compounds.

My internship experience at the Brain Science Institute gave me an incredible opportunity to gain a broad perspective on the drug discovery process and helped me figure out what exactly I want to major in college. I now know I would like to major in either chemistry or biochemistry.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Dr. Takashi Tsukamoto, Ms. Bridget Duvall, the Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute, and the American Chemical Society.

By Elizabeth Travis