Global EngagementUC HomeAbout UCUC AcademicsUC AdmissionsUC AthleticsUC GlobalUC HealthUC LibrariesUC ResearchNews


UC Student’s Virus Research Finds Nobel Audience

Chemistry student Dan Lewallen attends the 59th Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Lindau, Germany, June 28 – July 3. What’s even more timely is Lewallen’s research.

Date: 7/4/2009 12:00:00 AM
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Ashley Kempher, photojournalist

UC ingot   During the 2009 Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates and Students, 23 Nobel Laureates (including Sir Harold Kroto) meet with more than 600 young researchers from around the world. One of those 600 young researchers is Dan Lewallen, a third-year doctoral chemistry student in the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Cincinnati.

Lewallen is working on the challenging project of detection and differentiation of influenza virus using synthetic glycans (a type of carbohydrate) under the guidance of Suri Iyer, assistant professor of chemistry.

Dan Lewallen is a third-year doctoral student in McMicken's Chemistry Department.
Dan Lewallen studies using carbohydrates to differentiate between influenza strains.

“There is a great need for early diagnosis of influenza virus, and more specifically, differentiation of highly pathogenic variants from less pathogenic ones,” says Iyer. Lewallen and Iyer have been collaborating with the biosensor team at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. “Preliminary studies suggest that synthetic molecules developed in our laboratories can differentiate between H1N1 and H3N2 variants.”

Lewallen was even a coauthor on a paper discussing the studies, which was recently published in the Journal of the  American Chemical Society.

“Our goal is to develop a hand-held sensor with an instant response using carbohydrates,” says Lewallen. “For example, for a swine flu sensor, we could get a nasal or mouth swab and use a buffer wash to get the particles off. We would like to see some response with what we call a ‘binding event’ where they selectively bind those particles and nothing else. Our long-term goal is we have to get carbohydrates that would recognize the ‘bad stuff’ and the bad stuff only.”

Lewallen applied for UC’s nomination to the Lindau program in late 2008 and was one of three students nominated by the university. To have been eligible, a student must have completed by September 2009 at least two but not more than four years of study toward a doctoral degree in chemistry or a related discipline; must be a U.S. citizen; must be currently enrolled at a university as a full-time graduate student; and must be participating in a research project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health or other federal agency. A nomination should be initiated by the student’s research mentor.

Lewallen studies organic chemistry in the lab of Suri Iyer.
Lewallen was chosen to attend the Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Germany.

Lewallen’s research topic, “Investigation of the parameters involved in carbohydrate-protein interactions,” is funded by the National Institutes of Health, specifically, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. His nomination was initiated by Suri Iyer and submitted by Sandra Degen, vice president for research at UC.

During the meeting, the Laureates will lecture in the mornings on the topic of their choice related to physiology and medicine and participate in less-formal small-group discussions with the students in the afternoons and some evenings. The primary purpose of the meeting is to allow participants to benefit from informal interaction with the Nobel Prize winners.

During lunches and dinners, Laureates join participants at local restaurants for informal discussions. Various social events are also on the agenda to allow participants to meet other attendees from around the world.

Lewallen’s area of study at UC is organic chemistry. While at UC, he has received many awards and honors, including “Most Interesting, Scientific” poster presentation from the BioOhio poster competition and the Milton Orchin Award, which is given to the most outstanding second- or third-year graduate student in organic chemistry. He has received a University Research Council Summer Fellowship and research associate awards. He is a teaching assistant for freshman chemistry at UC and was a teaching assistant for organic chemistry at DePauw University, as well, where he earned his bachelor’s in chemistry — with a minor in philosophy, of course.

Besides being a gifted student, Lewallen is also dedicated to helping others achieve academically.
Lewallen has mentored other students, both high school and undergraduate level.

“I really liked the way a specific professor taught, so I took all his courses,” Lewallen says, smiling. “When I was done, I had enough for a minor.”

When he first started out at college as an undergraduate student, he wasn’t sure what to major in. He loved his undergraduate chemistry professor.

“Then I got into organic chemistry and I was hooked on the topic,” Lewallen exclaims.

So how does grad school compare to undergrad?

“The highs are always great,” he says. “I get down when it’s not working. But as my undergrad advisor said, ‘When reactions are not working, it’s time to start doing more reactions.’ So when my research isn’t going well, I step up my research.”

“Daniel has outstanding academic credentials,” says Iyer. “He is the first student in the past three years to score A’s in all of his courses. He has presented several posters at regional and national meetings that include UC Graduate Poster Forum, Central Region Meeting of the American Chemical Society, the 40th National Organic Symposium and the Annual Midwest Carbohydrate & Glycobiology Symposium.”

Besides his own academic success, Lewallen is also committed to the success of others.

“In addition to teaching and research, Daniel also mentored Stephany Jones, a high-school student, over  two summers; Mike Laugle, a senior undergraduate who is currently a first-year medical student at UC; and David Siler, who is a first-year student at Princeton University,” Iyer points out. “He is currently mentoring Justin Morrison, a senior undergraduate in my laboratories.”

Sharing knowledge is clearly important to Lewallen. No wonder he was looking forward to going to Lindau.

“I believe that this conference will afford me the invaluable opportunity to discuss my education and work with some of the most intelligent scientists alive,” he wrote in his application. “There is nothing more inspirational than meeting a Nobel Prize winner and having roundtable discussions with them. The opportunity to freely discuss my work and to interact with Nobel Laureates cannot be matched by any other conference in the world.”

Read more about the Lindau meeting.

Read about another UC Lindau attendee:

University of Cincinnati Doctoral Student Selected to Meet Nobel Laureates in Germany
Sara Andria, a doctoral student in chemistry at the University of Cincinnati, was selected to attend the 57th Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates and Students in Germany.

Other Nobel Laureate news at UC:

10/20/2008   FRIDAY: Sir Harold Kroto Talks ‘Kentucky Fried Creationism’ at TUC
Alan Marshall receives this year's Oesper Award and at his request, Sir Harry returns to UC to deliver the banquet's keynote address.