Major Mondays: Joint Chemistry and Biology

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An interview with Celine Wang, senior joint Chemistry and Biology major.

Four students on a couch with turkey hats on.
Celine and her roommates. Photo Credit: Celine Wang

How did you pick your major?

I came into Mudd knowing that I wanted to do some sort of chemistry. I was really into chemistry and biology coming out of high school and so, for the most part, I was debating between chemistry and chem-bio. I ultimately settled on the joint chem-bio major since it had most of the classes I wanted to take anyway.

What types of research have you done in your major?

I worked with Prof Haushalter in the early part of my Mudd career. It was mostly chemical biology, so we were looking at a DNA repair enzyme called OGG1 in yeast. It was a relatively new project so we were mostly setting up the different yeast strains and preparing the enzyme to isolate it and probe it for other functions. We did a little bit of chem-bio work there and then, starting with this summer, I’ve been working with Prof Vosburg and we’ve been doing more organic synthesis type of research.

What was your favorite major class?

It’s not officially a major class, it’s one of the electives, but I really liked Bio Inorganic, taught by Prof Van Heuvelen. It really blended together my interest in chemistry and biology coming from more of a chemistry perspective on different proteins. It kind of reaffirmed that this is the field that I wanted to do, which was really nice.

What was your favorite non major class?

I’m currently taking Workshop in Hand Press Printing, offered by Prof Groves. It’s really fun, because he has all these old 19th and 20th century, maybe even older, hand presses from really old print shops. We get to typeset and make these little projects and it’s just really unique.

Are you involved in any extracurricular activities in in biology or chemistry department?

I do AE (Academic Excellence) for the chemistry department, every week working with all the first years. I was a TA in the past for the lab course, but right now it’s mostly just AE.

How have you explored the real-life applications of your major at Mudd?

I took Prof Haushalter’s HIV and Society class. We didn’t do any direct application, but it was really interesting. We focused a lot on the cultural aspects of the first HIV outbreak and the process of getting to a point of understanding what this virus is and what it does. It was really cool to see that evolve over time. I also took that class the first summer when Covid was a thing. It was really cool to see how the HIV virus progressed through society and became prominent in the culture, at the same time as Coronavirus was taking over. And they actually have relatively similar spreads within populations in the sense of how different governments reacted, which I thought was pretty cool.

What is your senior project?

I’m doing a thesis with Prof Vosburg. We’ve mostly been synthesizing organic compounds. Me and the other thesis students in the group have been focused on synthesizing compounds that are really similar to Xanax. They are a little bit different, it’s missing a fused benzene ring, but it’s of the same framework. It has been relatively understudied so we’re just seeing how well we can make similar types of compounds.

What are your plans for after graduation?

Ideally, I will be going to grad school. I just submitted all the applications and so that’s the plan right now. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll probably just work in industry or in a lab for a few years and try again.

Written by Malia Morgan