Combating Drug-Resistant Bacteria
De Novo Fellow Dylan Lawton ‘20 contributes to the search for a more effective treatment of microbial infections.
By Ally O'Connor '20
Following his kindergarten aspiration to become a physician, Dylan Lawton ‘20 (Biology) was awarded a De Novo Fellowship at the end of the 2018–19 academic year, and spent this past summer working on his project “Solid-Phase Synthesis Dipeptides as Antimicrobial Agents Against Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Infections.” Lawton, who has chased the goal of practicing medicine since he was young, devoted these months to studying possible new treatments for this Pseudomonas Aeruginosa bacterium with the help of his faculty mentor, Amelia Fuller (Chemistry & Biochemistry).
“There is an ongoing need to develop new medications to combat microbial infections, such as pathogens, [that] evolve resistance to existing treatments,” Lawton explains. The specific bacterium he is studying, Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, is a gram-negative bacterium that can cause infections such as cystic fibrosis. Because this particular bacterium has acquired resistance to many of today’s treatments, he notes, infections caused by it are extremely difficult to treat.
In response to this challenge, Lawton and Fuller collaborated with Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis to “generate and evaluate new molecules as candidate antimicrobial agents through the D3 Project, which stands for the Distributed Drug Discovery Project,” he says. Excitingly, the team’s findings will hopefully be presented at the 32nd Annual Northern California Undergraduate Research Symposium next year.
Intentionally focusing on broadening representation of students in STEM by funding student research, the De Novo Fellowship appealed to Lawton. “Coming from the diverse, multicultural environment of Hawai’i,” he says, “I saw the De Novo Fellowship as a perfect match to my ideals, background, and identity as a diverse SCU student.”
Looking into the future, Lawton has maintained that goal he created in kindergarten and hopes to apply to medical school following his graduation from SCU. While he is still undecided as to what specialty he aims to pursue, Lawon shares that he “would ultimately want to return home to Hawai’i and practice medicine there, where I would be able to serve and give back to the diverse, multicultural community that has molded me into the person I am today.”
About the De Novo Fellowships
A collaboration between the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering, the De Novo program awards research fellowships to outstanding students from underrepresented groups in STEM. Fellowships provide a $5,000 stipend for up to 10 weeks of full-time research, plus up to $750 for conference expenses to present their research during the following academic year.