Andrew Johannemann, Researcher
Owensboro Cancer Research Program
Major : Chemistry
Hometown : Owensboro, Kentucky
Future Plans : Medical Doctor/Researcher
I was born and raised in Owensboro, Kentucky. I graduated from Daviess County High School and began my college career at a public institution. Due to financial reasons and the health of family members, I later decided to transfer. KWC was my top choice because I could be close to those family members and KWC offered me scholarships. I actually ended up paying less for my education at KWC than at my previous school.
My old school offered a wealth of research opportunities, as the faculty is considered researchers first and teachers second. At KWC, however, the faculty focuses their time on teaching and student learning. This makes for a much more enjoyable experience in the classroom.
I still wanted to do research, so I spoke with my faculty advisor, Dr. Magnuson, about research opportunities. He directed me to the Owensboro Cancer Research Program.
I soon began work in Dr. Kenneth Palmer’s laboratory. The focus of his research is on lectins, proteins that bind carbohydrates. The main lectin we study is griffithsin (GRFT), which is under investigation as a topical microbicide to combat HIV infection. The research combines various aspects of biology and biochemistry techniques.
One of the major experiments I’m currently working on is testing the stability and activity of GRFT as an acidic pH. As a topical microbicide, the protein will be subjected to an acidic pH, so it is vital to know whether the protein will remain functional under such conditions.
When I first began working in Dr. Palmer’s lab, I expected to do grunt work. I thought I would simply help other researchers on their projects. While I did perform routine laboratory duties for a short time, I quickly began a project of my own. This was quite exciting.
Some students feel that (high school and college) laboratory courses provide good exposure to research. This conclusion is incorrect. Research is a process – an often long and arduous process. My current experiment will last a minimum of a month, certainly not something that can be completed during a laboratory course.
My experiences with ill family members and the excitement of research have confirmed and enhanced my desire to be a physician researcher. As a medical doctor, I plan to both treat patients and perform research. The professors at Wesleyan and Dr. Palmer have provided me a wealth of advice and encouragement in reaching these goals.