Kevin Ekanem wins Koret scholarship

Name: Kevin Ekanem

Major: Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology

Year: Senior

College: Oakes College

Kevin Ekanem

Why did you choose your major and your college? 

From an early age I have always been interested in the field of biology, and in particular the molecular processes of the cell. I chose to join Oakes College because Oakes has a strong commitment to diversity and social justice. 

What are your career goals?

 Upon receiving my bachelor’s degree, I want to go to medical school, obtain an MD/PhD and pursue a career in biomedical research. Currently I have been contemplating going towards the field of cancer research or research in the field of infectious diseases. With the advice from my professors, as well as my PI, I believe I will be able to make the best-informed decision. 

What is your research project?

I am studying a bacterial virus, Violet, that was isolated from a soil sample collected at UCSC. One of Violet’s genes has the potential to code for two completely different proteins. This is extremely unusual and perhaps even unprecedented. Using mass spectrometry, a very sensitive method for detecting proteins, we have shown that both of these proteins can be observed in cells infected by Violet. My current work aims to answer two questions: first, are both of these proteins important for Violet’s life cycle, and second, what mechanisms allow one gene to produce two proteins? 

Why did you choose that topic? 

I have been studying bacterial viruses at UCSC over the past three years. I began by isolating two novel viruses from soil samples taken from around campus. Then, I used a large set of computer-based tools to analyze the DNA genomes of two other viruses Firecracker and Ogopogo. These prior experiences gave me the computational and lab bench skills necessary to work on my current project. 

Who are you working with? 

I am working with Prof. Grant Hartzog. I have been working in his lab for three and a half years. 

What advice do you have for other students interested in doing research?

One piece of advice I have for students interested in doing research is to understand that research in its most basic form is starting out with just an observation then formulating a hypothesis and testing it. In the course of running experiments, majority might fail, however, this is where I see the potential to learn the most. I believe we learn more from our failures than our successes. As long as we come away from a failed experiment with an important lesson or observation than it isn’t considered a failed experiment. This is not limited to research but can be applied to life in general.