Building Peptides and Confidence in the Lab
There’s a moment in the lab, after he’s made the peptide-based nanostructure to carry a drug to its target, after he’s anticipated its structure, that Jin Mo Koo ’17 gets to see with his own eyes—through TEM imaging—what the molecule he’s created actually looks like, and confirm that it actually works.
“The first time I saw that was my most memorable moment,” says Koo, a senior who has earned the Sarah K. Doshna Undergraduate Research Award and the Loy Wilkinson Award.
Koo, originally from Seoul, South Korea, chose to major in chemical and biomolecular engineering because of his interest in refining drug-delivery techniques to help heal people. The lab tests various peptide sequences and ways to functionalize them using dye and polymers, for example, to find the optimal properties to carry drugs to their target sites most efficiently. Koo’s role is to make and characterize the peptides, whose potency and efficiency are then tested using animal studies.
Koo is deciding between attending Caltech and Princeton next year to earn his PhD, with the ultimate goal of entering industry to start his own drug delivery company. His time in the lab has given him inner strength and taught him to take the broader view, he says; to keep trying when something doesn’t work the first time. The experience of success in his courses and the lab has given him the confidence to tackle anything that comes his way.
“If you fail one step, it doesn’t mean the whole thing’s going to fail,” Koo says. “I became more visionary than I was in high school.”