Emily Winesett has filled the Haverford Athletics record books during her career on the College’s softball team. (She is the program leader in appearances, innings pitched, and batters faced.) But it was a different sort of notebook she filled for her senior thesis: a lab notebook. The chemistry major, who also earned a biochemistry concentration, conducted research in the lab of Assistant Professor Lou Charkoudian ’03.
“In the Charkoudian lab, we study how bacteria are able to make complex molecules that, as chemists, we have difficulty synthesizing ourselves,” says Winesett. “[My] project is looking at one part of the machinery that bacteria use to make these compounds.”
Winesett thesis, “Probing Chain Sequestration in Natural Product Biosynthesis using Vibrational Spectroscopy,” which she began researching the summer before her senior year with funding from the Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center, not only contributed to her Haverford education, but also helped her forge a career path.
“The opportunity to conduct independent research at Haverford, both for my thesis as well as earlier, directly led me toward a career in research and the decision to apply to M.D./Ph.D. programs,” says the Florida native who will be returning to her home state to attend the University of Florida.
What did you learn from your thesis research?
My biggest takeaway was the skill of how to conduct research and everything that goes along with it. I not only learned about how bacteria make natural products and many biological and chemical techniques, but also how to conduct scientific research including designing experiments, interpreting the data, troubleshooting, presenting my research, and reading the primary literature in the field.
What are the implications of your research?
My research aimed to further characterize how bacteria use enzymatic syntheses to make compounds. Many of these compounds are of particular interest because of their pharmaceutical properties, and many are currently used clinically such as tetracycline, erythromycin, and lovastatin. The ultimate goal of the research is to be able to understand the syntheses that make these compounds well enough that we are able to mix and match components of different syntheses in order to have bacteria produce novel pharmaceuticals.
“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.