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Chemistry graduate student selected for prestigious Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting


Chemistry graduate student Heather Osswald will give her research its first international exposure this summer when she attends the exclusive Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany.

Heather Osswald
Heather Osswald

The meeting is open to 400 of the top young scientists in the world. The event takes place June 25 to 30 with the goal of sharing research and meeting global peers. Attendees get to listen to and meet Nobel Laureates, and they get the chance to have their work showcased in a poster session.

“To interact with researchers from other countries and see how their science influences mine,” Osswald said, “it’s a great opportunity overall.”

The Department of Chemistry is home to Purdue’s two Nobel laureates, Herbert C. Brown and Ei-ichi Negishi.

Osswald is one of professor Arun Ghosh’s graduate students that take medicinal chemistry and organic synthesis approaches to combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

“What our group is most well known for is our projects in HIV protease inhibitors,” Osswald said. “We utilize structure-based drug design to optimize these inhibitors in the active site of HIV protease to try to get more potent inhibitors, particular to combat drug resistance.”

While HIV strains show drug resistance, Ghosh and Osswald push back with more novel synthesis and powerful inhibitors. This work then heads to collaborators to look at crystal structure, antiviral activity, toxicity and metabolism while on the way to drug discovery.

This semester, Osswald is busy in Ghosh’s Wetherill labs working with the bis-tetrahydrofuranylurethane (bis-THF) ligand, a portion of the compound that fuel’s Ghosh’s landmark creation of the FDA-approved HIV treatment drug Darunavir. The ligand is the linchpin in the compound and must get stronger to combat those resistant HIV strains.

After her PhD work is complete at Purdue, Osswald expects to pursue a post-doc fellowship at a research institution before embarking on her journey to become a tenure track faculty member.

Ghosh said graduate students like Osswald do “critical work” in his labs. He believes the fact that Osswald has been well published during her years at Purdue and her desires to pursue a research degree helped get her into Lindau.

“It’s a very exciting opportunity for her,” Ghosh said. “I hope it inspires her, motivates her and will help her follow her own research pathways.

“She will be around a lot of very, very bright people like her. She will meet laureates and listen to cutting-edge science.”

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