New Chemistry Prof. and Hamilton Junior Collaborate in UCSD Lab

Sam Cho '10 and Adam Van Wynsberghe
Sam Cho '10 and Adam Van Wynsberghe
Newly hired Assistant Professor of Chemistry Adam Van Wynsberghe became acquainted with Hamilton College before he even arrived. This summer, he and Hamilton student Sam Cho ’10 participated in biophysical chemistry research at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), where Van Wynsberghe was an NIH Kirschstein post-doctoral fellow. He says the experience was “good for both parties” in that while Cho familiarized himself with the sort of research that could consume his career after Hamilton, Van Wynsberghe became acclimated to the Hamilton community through Cho. 

“On my end, it’s great because now I have a trained student to help train other students,” Van Wynsberghe said. “It’s a nice win-win.” 

Van Wynsberghe’s lab at UCSD had a bit of extra money that they decided would be best put to use through UCSD’s SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) Program. SURF offers students summer research positions alongside knowledgeable and accommodating lab members. Van Wynsberghe wanted a Hamilton student to come to work with him so that he could easily slip into Hamilton’s chemistry department come fall. 

Cho’s studies were based on previous work surrounding the topic of a protein called thrombin, an important protein in the blood clotting cascade, and two of its mutant forms. Using molecular dynamics simulations and computational analysis, Cho and Van Wynsberghe wanted to see if there were any conformational changes in the thrombin mutants that would affect the way they interacted with thrombomodulin, an integral membrane protein. Thrombomodulin turns off blood clotting in the body to ensure that excess clotting, which can lead to thrombosis and possibly stroke, does not occur. 

Cho is continuing his studies on this system this semester and it will eventually be the topic of his senior thesis. As a senior, he plans on taking the MCATs soon. His ultimate goal is to become an oncologist, and he says that this summer’s lab experience has served the dual purpose of promoting academia and strengthening the ties that students can have with the newest members of Hamilton’s faculty.

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