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Swathi Kanakamedala ‘17

“DNA Cross-linking by Antitumor Active Rhodium Compounds”

Minor/Major: Biochemistry/Pre-med
Hometown: Bethlehem, PA
Project Advisor: Dr. Shari Dunham

Briefly describe your project.

Transition metals are often underexplored when it comes to discovering potential chemotherapy drugs. One metal-based drug that has been used to successfully treat testicular cancer is called cisplatin, which has a platinum atom at its center. For my project, we are interested in using active rhodium compounds in series and determine to what extent it causes a damaging cross-link, called interstrand cross-links, when it binds to DNA. This will help us determine which rhodium compound in the series can be a potential candidate for new chemotherapy treatments. 

Why did you decide to turn your idea into a SOAR project?

The idea of my project came from my faculty mentor. Prior research students have conducted involved different aspects of this project. Similarly, I am continuing the project, but with a different goal in mind. 

How did your faculty advisor guide you through your research?

The best part about working with my faculty mentor is that I have someone to go to for assistance whenever I encounter difficulties.  Knowing that my mentor is always supportive and helpful,  has allowed me to develop a strong relationship with my mentor. The most valuable insight my faculty mentor has brought to my project is to identify different solutions to solving a problem. There is not only one way to solve a problem, so it is important to have multiple plans that can help you reach your goals. 

What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

My biggest obstacle so far has been altering my methods when I did not get the expected results. Some of my experiments did not work out the way that I expected, so I had to modify my methods and laboratory techniques in order to get valuable results. 

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

My biggest takeaway from this experience is that research involves a variety of skills and techniques that people may not realize. Especially in the science field, research involves critical thinking, problem-solving, organization, patience (a lot of patience!) and bouncing ideas off of other students and faculty. Also, in the research field, everyone is eager to share what they have been studying, and it is always exciting to hear and learn about the variety of research projects that other students are conducting!

What was the result of your project? 

The result of my project was acquiring new skills, learning new laboratory techniques, and furthering my research project by doing Honors my senior year.  

Will you expand on your research after this summer is over? If so, where would you like to see it go?

Yes, I do plan to expand my research by doing an Honors project. I want to see my project go to the point where I can combine prior research student’s data and determine the percent of interstrand crosslinks for each of the rhodium compounds in series.

In your own words, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity?

I am extremely grateful for being awarded this opportunity. It is so important for students to be exposed to the research field in a variety of disciplines because it is an experience that not many students would have the opportunity to do. Students should most definitely take advantage of the SOAR program because it will not only be a chance for students to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor and conduct their own research project but also an opportunity for students to learn about the variety of research that other students are doing throughout the community.