Mary Gates Endowment For Students

Daniel Ong

Mary Gates Research Scholar, Autumn 2021 & Autumn 2022

Research Project: Directed Evolution of Fe(II)/2OG Enzymes for Non-Native C-H Functionalization of Amines

Project Description: There is a growing demand to create complex organic molecules for the production of pharmaceuticals and other high-value chemicals. Enzymes offer a more sustainable means to perform highly selective chemical transformations that are otherwise difficult to achieve using synthetic chemistry. Non-heme iron(II)/2-oxoglutarate (Fe(II)/2OG) dependent enzymes catalyze a wide array of reactions via C-H functionalization, the transformation of a C-H bond to a C-X bond where X can be an element other than hydrogen. The goal of my project is to engineer new-to-nature Fe(II)/2OGs by directed evolution to hydroxylate a wide range of amine substrates. My research can ultimately help advance the reach of biosynthesis for the sustainable production of therapeutics and other complex chemicals.

What have you learned throughout your research project?

Beyond learning wet-lab and technical skills, my research experience has helped me become a better problem-solver and a more resilient researcher. When a problem occurs or when the unexpected happens, it is always good to take a moment to evaluate the situation and come up with possible reasons and solutions. The opportunities to talk about my research with others has helped me develop my communication skills and I will always work towards being a better science communicator and teacher.

What piece of advice do you have for future applicants?

You can do it! While you may have not completed many courses yet or may not have previous relevant experience, do not let this deter you from your projects and the Mary Gates scholarship application! It is okay to make mistakes and to not know everything at first. You will pick up the necessary skills and knowledge as you work on your projects. You can always reach out to your mentors with any questions or if you need any help.