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Superheroes of Science

May 11, 2020

David Thompson is a professor in the Purdue University Department of Chemistry with a courtesy appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. His group uses organic chemistry, which makes and breaks bonds to create new compounds. They work to create compounds both for new pharmaceuticals and to help with better drug delivery. Thompson explains that the photos you see online of the COVID-19 virus are actually reconstructions of images taken using an electron microscope. The electron microscope helps us get precise enough images to do a better job of designing drugs in order to improve human health. The goal of imaging a virus, or any other submicroscopic object, is to create an atomically precise picture of that object. For example, knowing the exact shape of a virus allows us to better select a compound that can inhibit that virus from infecting a cell. Pharmaceutical companies specializing in drug discovery will have libraries of up to 4 million different compounds, with information related to the shape and size of each of them. Thompson explains compounds and enzymes. He also explains how students work through the design, build, test, and analyze process for testing hypotheses and answering research questions. It is important to work towards developing good questions that will give clear answers during the analysis of the research results. When designing experiments, it is also important to create both positive and negative controls. Both the positive and negative controls should be completed before the real test in order to avoid getting a false positive.