NSights Blog

Undergraduate research is a highlight of college experience

Biotechnology major Jaeden Tedsen works on cutting-edge nanodisk research

Nanodisks. It’s a word that I’ve seen in science fiction books and YouTube videos on the future of medicine. I never thought that I would one day have the opportunity to work with this bio-technology. Nanodisks are exactly what the name implies: microscopic disks that are smaller than the width of human hair. These disks will hopefully be the next generation of drug delivery and personalized medicine. Initial clinical trials have already begun examining the disks' effects on cancer.

Research has always been a future career aspiration, ever since I heard about the newly discovered gene editing technology, CRISPR, in my sophomore year AP Biology class. I knew going into college that I would learn about the chemistry and techniques of the biomedical industry but I never expected, as an undergrad, to be performing hands-on research that could actually make a difference. After joining Jeffery Harper’s lab and learning the ropes for a couple of months, Professor Harper introduced a new project that was up for grabs. It would be an off-shoot of a nanodisk project by Kyle Lethcoe conducted in Professor Bob Ryan’s lab. We wanted to take the nanodisk he made and make it better.

Jaeden in a lab holding a vial and using a syringe to add drops into it.
Jaeden aliquoting nickel charged NTA agarose beads for use in protein purification.

Some quick background on the basis of this project; treatment of fungal infections is nowhere near as studied or advanced compared to bacterial infections. The obvious reason is that bacterial infections are more prevalent. The other not-so-evident reason is that fungi is used to produce a lot of our antibiotics (penicillin). Because of this lack in development, treatment of severe fungal infections includes the use of amphotericin B: a very toxic drug and very good at killing cells, both fungal and human.

The project that was proposed, and the one I’m working on now, is to add a special protein that expedites this drug (amphotericin B) delivery. That special protein is called Dectin 1. It binds molecules unique to fungal cells, which would hypothetically greatly increase the delivery efficiency, targeting the nanodisks to where the infection is. This would reduce the dosage needed to adequately treat the infection, reducing symptoms, and make the treatment a whole lot safer.

I like the saying “results aren’t a guarantee,” because they’re not. Nine times out of 10, failure is a very real possibility. But even failure is success in research because you’re able to learn from your mistakes. Every time I come to my mentors, James Davis and Professor Harper, with another failed result, we sit down and talk about it and hammer out a game plan to address the shortfalls. I’ve learned more in these discussions than I ever did reading a textbook.

Perseverance is an attribute essential to a successful scientist. I learned this the hard way over last summer during my NURA (Nevada Undergraduate Research Award) funded research. In the moment, it seemed like it was just failure after failure, but looking back I could see I was fine-tuning my product and would be better for it in the long run. I ended the summer less than satisfied with my results, but fall semester was right around the corner and things have been looking promising since then.

I’ve always loved strategy games and puzzles, so research checks all those boxes for me. Having to understand how all the different components interact with each other in order to make the protein do what you want is fascinating to me. The more challenging a problem is, the better I feel after finally arriving at a solution. I would highly recommend any student with any inkling of interest to build that courage and try participating in research for a semester or two. It’s very low pressure and you get real-life experience. It’s a love-hate relationship for sure but it is very rewarding and ultimately a highlight of my college experience.

About the author

Undergraduate researcher Jaeden Tedsen is majoring in biotechnology through the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, and minoring in business administration through the College of Business. He is currently working on cutting-edge nanodisk research that can potentially reduce side effects and expedite the delivery of anti-fungal drugs.

Jaden Tedsen smiling in front of a research poster.
Latest From

Nevada Today