This week’s “chalk talks” were very entertaining and it was exciting to see how my peers took ownership and pride in each of their respective projects. Last week, over the course of three days, each of the individuals in the BSURF program had to do an 8-minute presentation on the work they are currently doing in their labs and on their projects. At the whim of random pulling of names from a bucket, aided only by a whiteboard and an expo marker, we each took turns presenting in front of the whole program. 

One of the chalk talks that caught my attention was the one done on the topic of nanoparticles by Joe Laforet. He and his mentor are currently working on using self-aggregating nanoparticles to use as a more efficient drug delivery system than the ones currently used. The contemporary design of nanoparticles is based on enveloping a drug of interest in a metallic shell at the molecular level. There are some major issues with this design though. It’s difficult to design and has a very low drug-carrying capacity (only ~5%). Additionally, the metallic envelope is toxic in high doses and affects solubility. A low solubility is bad because it is difficult for the body to dissolve and absorb the drug of interest. 

Joe and his mentor are coming up with new designs for nanoparticles and have been using the tendency for some molecules to form nano-scale aggregates to their advantage. The drug of interest is paired with a molecule that serves as a natural vector that can target an organ or tissue of interest. It may sound simple but these nano-clusters of drug and excipient pairs have a drug loading capacity of 95% (remember the 5% of contemporary nanoparticles). 

Joe works with machine learning algorithms to help generate simulations that he then analyzes to predict whether a drug and its excipient pair will form a nanoparticle. His mentor can then go ahead and test this nanoparticle in the lab. The simulations he’s created look great and are very satisfying to watch unfold. Additionally, this work has great potential in the medical field and seems very exciting. Nice job and best of luck Joe!

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