What They Learned: Jessica Koshinski ’18

The chemistry major with a biochemistry concentration synthesized organic molecules to identify therapeutic treatments for pancreatic cancers.

With her thesis, “Synthesis of Small Molecule Inhibitors of the LIN28B Protein/let-7 microRNA Interaction in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma,” chemistry major Jessica Koshinski ’18 sought to advance the work of a lab at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

This project was inspired by wanting to help the thousands of people that are affected by pancreatic cancer every day and the desire to improve their quality of life using organic synthesis,” said Koshinski, who also completed a concentration in biochemistry.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Robert Broadrup supervised Koshinski’s research and coordinated the project with the Massachusetts laboratory.

“[He] really encouraged us to jump right in and be fearless,” said Koshinski, who was part of a team of chemistry students who had a hand in Broadrup’s research. “He understood that undertaking this project would be challenging, but he was there to help guide me at every point and offered his expertise and resources where he could. It was a great learning experience to be able to start a project from the beginning and to build a foundation for the students who will work on this project when I leave.”

Koshinki’s research is an important stepping stone to identifying potential treatments for certain types of pancreatic cancer, including pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

“By developing a method to ‘build’ these novel molecules and test their efficacy,” she said, “we are setting a foundation to be able to screen other molecules in the future to determine whether there are promising drug targets.”


What did you learn working on your thesis?
Working on this thesis really emphasized how interdisciplinary all of the sciences are. This thesis involved complex topics in molecular biology and organic chemistry, as well as certain aspects of computer science and physics. Being able to use all of these different areas of science to try to solve a biological problem really tested my comfort zone, but it was a great learning experience. My biggest takeaway from the project is to be adaptable. Starting this project, there were many uncertainties and obstacles that we faced, and by being adaptable, we were able to focus on the bigger picture to try to solve some of those intermittent challenges.

What are your plans for the future?
I recently started working at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania as a clinical research coordinator. I plan on learning more about cardiovascular medicine and biotechnology, with the hopes of pursuing medical school in a few years. This thesis has taught me a lot about the scientific process and has given me invaluable experience that I can utilize in the future.


“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.


Photo: Human tumor cells from the pancreas stained with an immunocytochemical stain with methyl green in the background and magnified to 400x.