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Nathan Suek ’17: Summer Research in Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton

Uncategorized- - By Nathan Suek '17

At the end of my sophomore year, I was on the fence about my declaring my major. On one hand, I had planned on being a psychology major. On the other, I enjoyed orgo so much that I wanted to major in chemistry. To figure out whether I would enjoy lab research, I decided to try it out for the summer. After asking several professors whose research interested me if space was available for a summer intern, Dr. Jose Avalos in the CBE Department invited me to join his lab. His research focuses on engineering microorganisms of environmental, industrial, and medical importance. My project focuses on engineering microbes to produce important pharmaceuticals. Imagine what you could do if you could simply grow a batch of microbes and collect medicine from them!

Nathan Suek

Nathan Suek '17, standing at the front of the Henry Hoyt Laboratory

Photo courtesy of Nathan Suek

The most rewarding experience from this summer was being able to apply the knowledge I learned in my coursework to my research. Sometimes, during classes like CHM 201 or MOL 214, I found myself wondering why the stuff was even important. However, my summer experience was a beautiful convergence of all the things I’ve learned at Princeton so far. It is incredible to see how all of the pieces, from spectroscopy to chromatography, fit together to solve a larger problem.

From this incredible summer I have learned what it means to be an independent learner and problem-solver. Thinking about experiments seems so simple, but so many things can go wrong when you implement your ideas/plans. Do I need to wash the tube before I fill it with sample? Should I use water or ethanol? Can trace ethanol left in the tube contaminate the sample? Learning how to think critically and carefully this summer has been so instrumental. It is a skill I will take with me everywhere I go!