Sharif Shrestha ’17 is staying on campus this summer working with assistant professor Max Majireck on a project at the crossroads of biological chemistry, education, economics and entrepreneurship.
Shrestha is helping Majireck design certain elements of the chemistry 360 course, Organic Synthesis Toward Improved Human Health, a writing-intensive course aimed at helping students understand the professional realities of drug discovery and the behind-the-scenes elements of creating new drugs.
Shrestha, a biological chemistry and economics double major, became involved with Majireck’s course indirectly through his fundraising efforts during the academic year, including Ham for Nepal, a philanthropic effort that raised almost $3000 in support of victims of the April 2015 Nepal earthquakes.
Major: Biological Chemistry and Economics
Hometown: Lalitpur, Nepal
High School: GEMS Institute of Higher Education (GIHE)
“It just started with a conversation with Professor Majireck about the Nepal fundraiser,” explained Shrestha “He basically said ‘I have a job for you’, and explained where he wanted to go with the course. The feedback from students after the course’s pilot semester was really positive, but he had more ideas of how to work on it.”
Shrestha is helping to design two different activities for the course. The first is a simulation of an FDA approval test, wherein students will be presented with two hypothetical drugs and be given different characteristics of each, from the chemical makeups of the drugs to the economic and ethical implications of their introductions to the market.
Students then select one of the two drugs that will be the focus of the second activity, fundraising. “We’re currently brainstorming about how we can achieve this goal,” saids Shrestha, adding that real fundraising is likely to be a component of the course, with proceeds going towards a science-oriented cause. “There’s this term, ‘citizen science’. We want the public to be conscious of scientific research and be able to contribute through fundraising. The public and the scientific community have a symbiotic relationship, but most people don’t know it.”
Shrestha has other connections on campus that he is taking full advantage of while helping Majireck design the course as well.
“I worked at the Levitt Center in three separate positions,” he says, “I was a student assistant, a member of the social innovation team, and a community animator in the social innovation lab, so I’m using those connections at Levitt to help brainstorm, to use all the resources I have at my disposal.”
This summer’s work is of particular importance to Shrestha due to its relationship to his professional aspirations. “(This research) is very much so in line with my plans for the future,” he noted, adding “it’s integrating science and economics. I love working in a lab, but in the future I see myself more so hands-on, dealing with people and working on the management side. That’s one of the themes of the course too, part what this class wants students to learn is that there’s more than just science behind drug discovery, most importantly you have to be able to communicate with the public and the community to survive in the drug world.”