Teamwork in the Chemistry Lab
Hometown: New Orleans, LA
Research Focus: Iron Chelation
Mentor: Alvin Crumbliss, Professor of Chemistry and Dean of Natural Sciences
“Manu is working on kinetic and thermodynamic measurements of chemical reactions that are related to how microbes acquire iron from their environment. This work is important because iron is an essential nutrient for all living cells and must be carefully controlled, as too much iron is toxic, and not enough iron represents a disease state. Manu's work involves collecting and interpreting chemical reaction rate data, which are modeled using mathematical expressions.
Why would the results to your research be significant? My research involves collecting and interpreting data on iron chelation, which is the addition of chemicals to the body in order to remove heavy metals. This research is very important because there are a lot of medical applications in terms of removing iron or killing any bacteria that use iron from the body.
What first got you started in research? At Duke, there are so many opportunities, so you really have to look at everything and make sure you give everything a good chance. I wanted to understand what research was like and what scientists can do with the basic knowledge that they learn. When I came to Duke, I knew it was powerhouse for all kinds of research, so I really wanted to get involved. Research simply is part of the culture at Duke.
How did your involvement with research affect your experience here at Duke? I came in as a biomedical engineering major. I thought biomedical engineering would be interesting because it’s about the interrelations between math and science. Unfortunately, it didn’t really click with me, and it took me two years to realize that. The summer after my freshman year, I worked in a chemistry lab. Working in a chemistry lab is when I realized that this is something I actually enjoy. After working there I decided that chemistry is a field I should seriously consider. In short, research basically propelled my choice of major.
What has surprised you about this entire experience? Research is actually not as individually-driven as one would expect it to be. Your lab is like a team, everyone is there for you and they’re always there to help you and try to support you and give you guidance and pointers. That was something I didn’t really know before I worked in a lab environment; I didn’t expect the amount of attention and support the lab gave for undergraduates.
Where do you see yourself heading in the future? My foremost goal is to go into the field of medicine. When you’re a doctor, research can help you in the sense that you’re constantly reading and constantly trying to get information and thinking about new creative ways to solve problems. I would also love to go into family medicine. As a family physician, you’re the first gateway to the patient’s overall health and you’re his/her personal doctor. I want to be the first line. In my future, I also hope to see myself as a physician but tied to an academic setting. I still want to work in a good institution where I have the option to pursue research as well as become close to the community.
What advice you would you like to offer undergraduate students interested in
research? If you want to pursue research here, you should try it out early on.If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it, but if you do, you’ll earn an extra skill set. When you talk to professors, indicate that you’re interested and passionate, look at their projects and be forward. When I first came in, I felt intimidated approaching professors but the only way you’re going to get past that is to actually go through the process. When you come to an institution like Duke, you don’t come here just to get by.