Chemist Sandra Loesgen’s lab researches the discovery and evaluation of natural products that can be developed into drugs.
Loesgen, an assistant professor of chemistry, mentors and leads a group of student researchers who investigate and develop new screening techniques to better understand the antibiotic, anti-tumor and anti-viral activity found in metabolites produced by fungi and bacteria.
“Drugs from dirt is a big theme in the community,” says Loesgen, whose students investigate microbes from soil samples found in diverse locales, ranging from Oregon to Africa. “We have some microbes from OSU’s Memorial Union that might be interesting in the future.”
Cassandra Lew, a junior chemistry major and research assistant in Loesgen’s lab, uses many instrumentation and spectroscopic techniques to isolate and study pathogens in soil samples from Bend, Oregon, in order to determine their cytotoxicity, or how toxic they are to cells, and their antibiotic properties.
Her research experiences have deepened her love for science and she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in organic chemistry to develop therapeutic applications. Lew is supported by a URISC scholarship (Undergraduate Research Innovation, Scholarship & Creativity).
Lew is assisting on a research project led by Loesgen that involves testing strains of abacteria and fungus against colon cancer cells. "We basically do an assay to see if the microbes kill the cells or not. I am specifically working with a strain right now that has killed cancer cells and trying to find the actual molecule that is killing the cancer cells," explains Lew.