What They Learned: Shreya Kishore ’21

The chemistry major’s thesis research identified a compound that could function as an antibiotic.

Antibiotics overuse is increasingly leading to multidrug-resistant bacteria. Over time we could run out effective antibiotics, which would make simple surgeries and infections life threatening. Shreya Kishore’s thesis research aimed to address this significant public health concern by finding new antibiotics. This falls at the intersection of Kishore’s interests as a chemistry major with a biochemistry concentration and health studies minor. 

“I have always been interested in research that lies on the interface of biology and chemistry and that has human medical relevance,” she said. “I have always wanted my work to have an impact on the progression of human health and that is part of why I chose to work on the rising problem of multidrug-resistant bacteria.”

A map of predicted deaths due to multi-drug resistant bacteria infections in 2050. Shows 317,000 for North America, 392,000 for Latin America, 390,000 for Europe, 4,150,000 for Africa, 4,730,000 for Asia, and 22,000 for Oceania.
A map of predicted deaths worldwide due to multidrug-resistant bacteria infections in 2050. Graph reproduced from the United Nations Foundation and Wellcome Charitable Trust report, data from the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance.

Kishore’s research in Associate Professor Kristen Whalen’s lab involves isolating compounds from marine bacteria and testing their effectiveness on disease-causing bacteria. Her research found a compound that can function as antibiotics against Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus faecalis

Both S. aureus and E. faecalis are human pathogens that are increasingly becoming multidrug-resistant,” she said. “So with more research on mammalian cells and clinical trials, we may be able to transform the compound that we have isolated into a commercially used antibiotic!”

Kishore begins graduate school in the fall at Stanford University, where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry. She plans to continue biochemistry research that has applications in the medical field.

What did you learn from working on your thesis? 

I learned in research, nothing ever works the first time around! Every time I tried something new, I would hope it would work perfectly the very first time I did it, but this is never how it went. I would have to repeat the same experiment multiple times with different parameters until it worked and I learned that this is normal in science; failure is the norm. So now I know not to be disappointed if something does not work the first time around, it most likely will not. I learned I need to keep trying and eventually I will find the method that works and if not, I will learn something along the way!

How did your thesis advisor help you during the process?

My thesis advisor is Dr. Kristen Whalen, and she has been absolutely instrumental in the working of my thesis. I started working in Kristen’s lab in the spring semester of my first year and have stayed in her lab ever since then. I meet with Kristen every week to discuss research results and next steps, and Kristen always has the most insightful thoughts and responses. Whenever I am unable to troubleshoot a problem on my own, Kristen has a solution in mind! Throughout my time in her lab, she has been an amazing mentor, inspiration, and guide for me. 

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