What They Learned: Rebecca Koweek ’22

The chemistry major with a biochemistry concentration explored the enzymatic production of organic molecules with medicinal properties for her thesis.

Rebecca Koweek, a chemistry major with a biochemistry concentration from Durham, NC, started working on the research that would become her thesis in the fall of her junior year. Inspired by work begun by June Hoang ’21, Grayson Hamrick ’21, and post-doctoral scholar Bashkim Kokona in Associate Professor Lou Charkoudian’s lab, she set out to discover and characterize protein systems from new types of bacteria in order to gain insight into organic molecule production. “​​I learned that no project or research is done without a team behind you,” said Koweek. “My research would not have been possible without the constant support of Dr. Yae In Cho, our [lab’s] postdoctoral researcher, and the valuable advice I received from my peer mentors in the lab.”

Inspired by her thesis to continue pursuing research, Koweek starts a Ph.D. program in chemistry at Boston University this fall.

“My experiences at Haverford were able to provide me the skills to become excited about going into a doctoral program,” she said. “I am excited to continue exploring biological chemistry research with new professors, teammates, and collaborators in Boston.”

How did your thesis advisor help you develop your thesis topic, conduct your research, and/or interpret your results?

Professor Lou Charkoudian was extremely helpful in the process of my thesis research; she was a constant guide and collaborator with the work I was completing. Many times throughout the years, I was trying new experiments for the rest of the lab to utilize and teaching other lab members through techniques used in our lab. Lou was a constant source of support throughout the process of managing to continue my own research passions while expanding the lab for future lab members. Often, my lab experiments would not be as successful as I had hoped, and Lou was always able to help me think of new directions and ways to work around various challenges I faced. 

What are the implications for your thesis research? 

The goal of this work was to look at new proteins and their interactions, so that we can understand how nature makes complex organic molecules, which tend to have medicinal properties (for example, antibacterials, immunosuppressants, etc.). Hopefully, this work will eventually allow researchers to use a sustainable route to produce molecules to treat various diseases. 

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