UNCG is a leader in the research of medicinal biochemistry, and graduate research plays an important part in new discoveries and developments.

In September, PhD student Joseph Mwangi received a competitive research grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, which has the mission of advancing the biomedical sciences and supporting a diverse scientific workforce to advance research, innovation, academic discovery and public service.

Mwangi has been working on the development of a new method for measuring changes in ribonucleic acids (RNA). As Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Norman Chiu says, RNA are “the messengers within our bodies that ultimately provide the essential structures and functions in life.”

“They do big jobs for us,” explained Chiu, who serves as Mwangi’s research adviser. “They’re associated with many diseases, including cancer. Therefore, they can provide new ways to diagnose and treat diseases.”

“Every scientist wants to play a role in finding a solution to a problem,” said Mwangi. “We want to develop a method that can be applied to accurately identify isomeric RNA – the biomarkers.”

Mwangi came to UNCG as a scholar in the National Science Foundation-funded GK-12 program, through which he helped teachers conduct scientific experiments and convey the concept of cutting-edge research in the public middle and high schools in North Carolina. Before he was a doctoral student, he taught high school science in his native country of Kenya and in Japan.

He was drawn to UNCG’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry because of the unique focus on medical related research work, and the notable collaboration within the department.

In 2016, Mwangi won the grand prize for his research project at the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers annual conference.

 

Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications