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A pre-med student is examining ways in which substances pass through a cell’s membrane — research that may one day prove useful to the pharmaceutical industry or the field of gene therapy.

Marquis Scholar Seth Kaufer ’02, a biochemistry major from Kingston, Pa., says the goal of the project is to use reversed phase liquid chromatography as a model for cell membranes. He is testing amino acids and amino acid derivatives to see how they enter a cell.

“Membranes are the barrier between the cell and the outside. We are studying how contents move from outside to inside,” says Kaufer, an EXCEL Scholar working with Jessica Wysocki, assistant professor of chemistry. In Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL program, students assist faculty members with research while earning a stipend.

Kaufer explains that in its mission to deliver drugs to the body, the pharmaceutical industry must understand how the chemicals pass through the cell lining.

Wysocki is exploring a non-biological method of studying this in order to reduce the number of animals subjected to experiments. “We’re just in the beginning phases and I think we made pretty good progress this summer,” she says.

Kaufer says the project is very interesting and applicable to his career plans. He especially likes participating in its initial stages and doesn’t expect the professor to finish the research before he has graduated from Lafayette.

“It’s interesting to see what works,” says the student. “You hit roadblocks along the way; we’re starting from square one. A lot of it is trial and error. It’s good to know it will eventually result in something.”

In the past the research he has been involved in employed tried and true methods, but this project demands problem solving and “figuring things out for myself,” adds Kaufer.

“EXCEL is really a great thing this school has,” he says. “It’s one-on-one with a professor and you’re paid throughout the summer.” He adds that medical schools look for research experience; he already has one publication under his belt.

A graduate of Wyoming Valley West High School, Kaufer is president of Theta Chi fraternity, the Hillel Society, and the Lafayette chapter of the American Chemical Society.

Categorized in: Academic News