When Carlos Espindola ’20 was approached by his chemistry professor about staying on campus for a summer research project, he didn’t hesitate.
Espindola was inspired by his organic chemistry courses at Hamilton, which he called “some of the most challenging but rewarding classes I’ve ever taken.” What he learned from the material sparked his interest in research that combined chemistry and medicine.
This summer, Espindola is taking part in a long-term research project led by Assistant Professor of Chemistry Max Majireck.
Hometown: Lynn, Mass.
High School: Lynn English High School
Using small-molecule natural products in the indole family as inspiration—one of them nicknamed “Hamindole” by the research team — Espindola is testing the effect of the compound on different types of bacteria and fungi. The level of biological activity will determine whether the compound has the potential to be used as a lead compound in developing medication.
Each day, he sets up two or three chemical reactions and allows them to run overnight. In the morning, he purifies and analyzes the final products to prepare them for biological testing.
At the end of the summer, Espindola aims to create about 20 different natural products and analogues, which will then be sent for bio testing at collaborating laboratories. After the results are in, Espindola plans to continue modifying the reactions until he can create products that have higher potency against pathogenic bacteria and lower toxicity in human cells, which can serve as leads toward developing new antibiotics.
“I was able to understand a lot about the field as the project progressed,” he said. “I got really comfortable in the lab. When I first started, I was constantly asking my advisor for help, but as the days went on, I was able to work more quickly and efficiently.”
In addition to acquiring new knowledge, Espindola says that the most valuable part of his experience was building a better relationship with the other researchers. “I really value the friendships I was able to build with Professor Majireck and his other research students,” he said. “I think we learned a lot together.”
Espindola hopes to take what he learned in this research project to his career post-graduation. “I hope to become a physician’s assistant,” he said. “I’ve always wanted a job which involved helping others. I was always attached to the idea of working in the medical field, because if my job is to make people feel better, then I would go to work happy every day.”