Nyema M. Harmon

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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