I work in the laboratory of Sinisa Urban, where we study the rhomboid family of enzymes. I determined how a malaria rhomboid enzyme recognizes its substrates and exploited that understanding to design a chemical inhibitor for this enzyme. This inhibitor, termed RiBn (for rhomboid-inhibiting boronate), blocked the invasion of parasites into red blood cells and cured cultures of malaria. This work demonstrated that the malaria rhomboid enzyme is both necessary for the pathogenesis of disease and therapeutically targetable.
Questions & Answers
Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work?
As an aspiring physician-scientist, I wanted to attend an institution filled with examples of clinicians who are also outstanding investigators. Not only did Johns Hopkins have more clinician-researchers than any other institution I was looking at, but the people here were also incredibly smart and humble.
What does receiving this award mean to you personally and professionally? Do you have any connection with the particular award you received?
I view this award as the capstone to a long but very rewarding journey at Johns Hopkins. Having arrived as an undergraduate, the institution has allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. I am proud to end this journey on this note.
What contributed to your project’s success (special skills, interests, opportunities, guidance, etc.)?
From the start of my project, my mentor encouraged me to take risks and gave me both the space to make mistakes but also the guidance to steer me in the right direction. Without this mindset, my project would not have been nearly as successful.
What thoughts do you have about Young Investigators’ Day itself, as a celebration of the roles student and fellows play in research at Johns Hopkins?
It is nice to see the hard work of so many students and fellows recognized. We are the future of science, but we often work in the shadows (both metaphorically and literally!).
What has been your best/most memorable experience while at Johns Hopkins?
By far, my most memorable experience was the birth of our son, Aarav, at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. We are the proud parents of a Johns Hopkins baby!
What are your plans over the next year or so? Graduating, looking for faculty positions, etc.?
I will be going to Yale for a Physician-Scientist Research Pathway residency and fellowship.
Tell us something interesting about yourself that makes you unique. Do you have any special hobbies, interests or life experiences?
In my spare time, I do freelance photography work for the university, a skill that has been quite useful with our son.