Life Sciences Students Attend National Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Conference

June 13, 2022
Erica Koyama ’23 presenting her research at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology conference
Erica Koyama ’23 presenting her research at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology conference

Susan Walsh, director of the Life Sciences concentration, Erica Koyama ’23, and Anh Nguyen ’23 attended the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in April. The atmosphere at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia was electric as undergraduate-, graduate-, and postdoctoral-level students presented research and mingled with leading scientists in various fields. Koyama presented her research on yeast genes whose function was previously unknown.

In the fall of 2020, Life Sciences students at Soka were unable to work in the lab due to the pandemic. Prof. Walsh created a project that could be completed remotely on students’ computers. Koyama’s work integrated bioinformatics, cell biology, and biochemistry to determine the then unknown function of a yeast protein, and she continued her research the following summer when Soka reopened.

“I learned from my project that unsuccessful experiments are just a daily part of life for scientists and researchers,” said Koyama, “so even if things do not work, just don’t feel down about it. Sometimes they can help you better understand your research.”

Nguyen, who is interested in molecular biology, appreciated the accessible way presenters explained complex research. She especially enjoyed studying posters, which summarized research conducted by fellow undergraduates. Mingling with peers and learning about their work strengthened her motivation to continue pursuing scientific research. “I really enjoy immersing myself in this community where people are so passionate about research,” Nguyen said.

Koyama and Nguyen said they appreciated the opportunity to learn about branches of biology they’d never encountered and to interact with scientists from prestigious institutions, biotech companies, NASA, and the National Institutes of Health. They both felt they were treated as fellow scientists throughout the conference.

“If you are hoping to go to graduate school to study science,” Walsh said, “it’s really important to have a chance to present alongside graduate students, postdocs, and faculty and see what this world is like.”

—Nugnandini Chhetri ’25