Nyema M. Harmon, Ph.D. student, Chemistry
Illuminates cancer cells
• Hometown: Yulee, Florida
• Faculty mentor/advisor: David F. Wiemer, Professor of Chemistry
• What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Ph.D. in Chemistry (Fall 2020)
• Please describe your research: My current research project focuses on the chemical synthesis of phosphorus-based pharmaceutical compounds. The goal is to gain a deeper understanding of how a class of compounds, called phosphoantigens, stimulates the human immune system to identify and destroy certain cancer cells and even fight off infections by pathogens.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? My work has significantly increased the accessibility of molecular tools available to study a type of immune cell in humans called the gamma delta T cell. Understanding how gamma delta T cells fight off various malignancies can enable the development of improved leukemia cancer immunotherapies.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I began to actually do research in the lab roughly 4 months after my first semester.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? I have been able to gain experience using state of the art scientific instruments and learn crucial techniques that are necessary for pharmaceutical research and development.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I am pursuing research-oriented jobs at the interface of chemistry and biology.
• Does your research have connections to or implications for COVID-19? Please explain. The type of drug delivery strategy I use is the same one utilized in the phosphorus-based drug Remdesivir, which has been one of the key FDA approved drugs used for the treatment of COVID-19 symptoms.
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