Ripon chemistry major takes research to the world stage

Last summer, Nicholas Luedtke ’16, a chemistry major from Appleton, Wisconsin, was accepted into a two-year research program through Princeton University focused on the upcoming field of molecular biophysics. He worked with post-doctoral and graduate students in the chemical and biological engineering department.

“They gave me the opportunity to know first-hand what it’s like to be a graduate student,” Luedtke says. “It let me explore whether I wanted to focus on research or take a different route. I really enjoyed the research experience.

“One of the biggest things I got out of the experience was the appreciation for biology and how closely chemistry and biology work together and interact in the science field. It showed me a different aspect of the science field.”

Luedtke is with the same group of research students this summer at the Institute of Nanobiology and Structural Biology in the Czech Republic.

“The research group is headed by three professors: Ivana Smatanova, Rudi Ettrich and Jannette Carey, the program coordinator from Princeton,” Luedtke says. “The research group also includes an undergraduate that I worked with last summer. The project again is funded by the National Science Foundation. My main objective is to investigate a protein found in some bacteria through a number of different experimental methods and instrumentation techniques.

“The work that has been done so far, by this research group as well as others around the world, has almost entirely solved the three-dimensional structure of this protein. However, there is a small section which has yet to be determined, and I will be helping to resolve the structure of the C-domain of EcoR124I which contains roughly 150 amino acids.”

Also during the summer, he will be attending a science conference in Budapest, Hungary.

“When I come back to Ripon College in the fall, I hopefully will be able to present my research to other scientists at an American Chemical Society meeting as well as help classmates decide if research is a good science path for them,” he says.

His own research experiences have been life-changing, Luedtke says. “I originally had thought about going into chemical engineering, but this experience has pulled me into the chemical and biological engineering field and especially research,” Luedtke says.

“This opportunity has opened the door for me to get my name out there and build up my experience as a student. It did wonders for my confidence as a student that I can pretty much attempt anything that I desire.”

He enjoys research because it puts him on the front lines with questions yet to be answered. “The best response you can give is that, ‘We’re not sure, that hasn’t been explored yet,’ ” he says. “If you’re doing an experiment, you honestly have no idea what it’s going to give you.”

Next up for Luedtke will be getting his name further afield with publications and pursuing a graduate degree in chemical engineering, focusing on biochemistry.

“I’m just really excited for the future, and I really appreciate the fact that the professors here really try to give you everything they can,” Luedtke says.

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