Currently, my main research is studying biosynthesis of trestatin, a compound that could potentially act as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of diabetes and obesity. This involves identifying and deactivating specific genes from a trestatin-producing gene cluster. As a side project, I’m working on extraction of a novel Rifamycin analog that might be a key agent in fighting tuberculosis.
What do you enjoy most about research?
The part of my research that I enjoy the most is my independence. I am free to apply techniques and new methods as long as they are scientifically supported protocols. Besides, what is not fun about working with bacteria!
How did you know you wanted to study bacteria?
Growing up, I loved spending time in my father’s clinic watching medical procedures. My experience in the clinic inculcated in me the ability to question medical experts about their work. The time I spent there sparked my curiosity and passion for medicine as an art and a science. My ambition to become a medical scientist stems from my desire to help patients, especially ones in developing countries, as well as forward my knowledge in research.
What is not fun about working with bacteria!
Why did you decide to come to OSU?
Practical training in the Ethiopian education system is not as well developed as the theory, therefore I travelled to the US to pursue my dreams at OSU. My experience here has been rewarding in terms of cultural growth and understanding, as well as academic performance.
Where do you see yourself in five years, and how is AgSci helping you get there?
In five years, I’d like to be someone with deep expertise in drug discovery and potentially even take the lead on some important projects in developing countries in the fight against diseases. AgSci at OSU has been a great help to me so far. I have an amazing advisor who is very knowledgeable and always working towards my success. I have also received the E.R. Jackman Internship Support twice from AgSci.
What challenges have you faced in continuing your education, and how did you overcome them?
I faced my biggest challenge as a student during my freshman year. I had never lived away from Ethiopia before, and I experienced severe culture shock and homesickness. I was almost defeated by it more than once and had the opportunity to quit everything return home. I overcame this situation by staying focused on my goals, including my research objectives and engaging in inter-cultural services as an OSU ICSP (International Cultural Service Program) scholar.
Any advice for incoming students?
I used to be very shy and skeptical about trying new things, but my mother gave me some very helpful advice. It is based on my native language, Amharic, so I will do my best to translate it: If you do not regularly stir the food you are cooking, then it will burn on one side. It works the same for me. If I am not stirring myself—meaning actively seeking scholarships, networking with professors, and being part of student organizations—then I will also burn on one side. The moral of the story is to always stay active.
College of Agricultural Sciences
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon 97331
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