“Publishing our work allowed me to experience the gradual nature of research and appreciate how small contributions to a given field cumulate in great strides in science over time.” —Erika Aguiluz Ramirez
By Erika Aguiluz Ramirez ’19
Los Angeles, Calif.
Chemistry (biochemistry emphasis), physics minor
The summer after my first year, I applied for a research position in Professor Leah Witus’s protein mimetics lab simply because I found the research topic interesting. I had no prior concept of what research looked like, but I was excited to have such an opportunity so early in my college experience.
As a senior, I have now spent every summer of college working with Professor Witus on different projects, including building tiny proteins and protein-like structures, and evaluating their functionality. The lab conducts research in chemical biology, an interdisciplinary field combining organic chemistry, cell biology, and biochemistry.
Macalester’s small size exposed me to scientific research early and allowed me to work progressively toward one specific research goal for many years. Up until this past summer, I worked to develop a new analysis procedure that would allow us to determine if a molecule was a good catalyst for what’s called an aldol reaction. This reaction is important for synthesizing many medicines, so expediting the process of identifying a great catalyst for this reaction could significantly aid the development of medicine in the future.
On a more personal level, the consistency of my research topic has led me to opportunities to present at chemistry conferences in New Orleans and the Twin Cities, and it also resulted in my first research publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Publishing our work allowed me to experience the gradual nature of research and appreciate how small contributions to a given field cumulate in great strides in science over time. The fact that I got to add to that knowledge bank was really exciting and I cannot wait to see what others will do with our work in the future.
January 7 2019Back to top