Sam Epstein ’19 Co-Authors Chemistry Research in Scientific Journal
The chemistry major’s senior thesis research, conducted with chemistry faculty members Lou Charkoudian’03 and Casey Londergan, was recently published in Nature Communications.
Chemistry major Sam Epstein ’19 has spent the last year finalizing research on the microscopic occurence known as “carrier protein chain sequestration” under the guidance of Associate Professor of Chemistry Lou Charkoudian ‘03 and Professor and Chair of Chemistry Casey Londergan.
The recent graduate’s research, which was the basis for his senior thesis, was recently published in Nature Communications. The science journal listed Epstein’s name as the first author alongside the names of his professors and Haverford alum Emily Winesett ’16—an extraordinary feat for an undergraduate in the field of chemistry.
“[The research] involves concepts and techniques spanning molecular biology, organic chemistry, protein biochemistry, physical chemistry, and biophysics,” said Charkoudian. “It took us awhile to put all these pieces together, but this year Sam was able to get it over the finish line by using this method to look at about 10 different carrier proteins.”
The placement of the research at the nexus between chemistry and biology appears to be exactly what primed Epstein for his instrumental role, as the senior concentrated in biochemistry, a field in which he plans to pursue his Ph.D. at NYU starting this fall.
Epstein’s efforts conclude a project that he has been assisting with throughout the entire duration of his time at Haverford. The research was initiated in 2014 by Emily Winesett, who also worked under the tutelage of Charkoudian and Londergan. The alum played no small role herself throughout all stages of the research.
“She got the project off the ground and trained Sam to do all of the protein production. She was involved in writing and revising the manuscript as well,” said Charkoudian. “By their senior years, both of these students were operating on the level of many senior Ph.D. students whom I’ve encountered through my own training and career.”
The researchers sought to collect data on the series of molecular transactions carried out between carrier proteins in the process of producing molecules, such as naturally occuring antibiotics. A study on the production of these molecules offers valuable insight into the fields of pharmacology and chemical sustainability.
Epstein engineered a more resource-affordable and sustainable form of viewing the process of protein production. In the lab, he attached a chemical probe to the carrier protein which rendered the previously elusive process visible when placed under a student-developed Raman-scattering spectrometer. This was a piece of equipment that, like Epstein’s final research, has been years in the making.
Epstein’s publication in Nature Communications is a fitting capstone for an entire collegiate career of cooperative research with Charkoudian.
“I have been working on the same independent research project in her lab... since I was a firstyear student,” Epstein reflected. “She has advised me closely as I have developed my work. We would often meet to help guide the direction of my future experiments and lab progress.”
The high esteem in which Epstein and Charkoudian hold each other appears to have grown out of a respect not just as teacher and student but as equal peers in the development of scientific research.
“While it is rare for any student to publish a first-author paper in Nature Communications, it is quite amazing that Sam has done so as an undergraduate at Haverford,” noted Charkoudian, capturing a moment which both concludes years of effort but hopefully promises many more to come.