Alicia Morgan, PhD Candidate
Hometown: Gales Ferry, CT
Degree: PhD, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Why did you choose to attend WPI?
I received my undergraduate degree from a small liberal arts and sciences school in Connecticut. I never considered WPI because I was under the impression it was a large school. When I came for my visit, I realized the CBC department was closer knit than I anticipated. The atmosphere, while ambitious and filled with excellent research, was friendly, and I liked that combination.
How has WPI’s philosophy of Theory and Practice, and working with teams, been beneficial to you during your time at WPI?
While interning at other universities, I often found the relationships between graduate students to be strained under the pressure of research. At WPI I have never found this to be the case. The graduate student body helps each other in problem-solving and advice. I learn just as much from my fellow graduate students as I do in the classroom.
What do you think are WPI’s greatest strengths?
I am proud to be a WPI graduate student because while the CBC department is small in size, the research being performed is substantial. This is in part facilitated by the talented professors and the amazing facility. I feel my opportunities are limitless here.
What are your research projects?
My research is with Professor James Dittami in the area of organic/medicinal chemistry. We synthesize molecular scaffolds, which bear resemblance to the skeletal frameworks of biologically important natural products, such as morphine and huperzine. A primary goal of this project is to identify the broad potential of our 41 scaffolds as pharmacological agents utilizing chemoinformatics programs in collaboration with a group from UCSF. A significant aspect of this research is that we will be predicting the protein targets for unknown compounds. The motivating hypothesis behind this analysis is that two similar molecules are likely to have similar properties and therefore will bind to the same group of proteins, potentially uncovering a novel class of pharmacophore scaffolds.
What do you hope to do when you graduate? What would be your ideal job?
It is my intention to work in the pharmaceutical industry for a period of time. I would love the opportunity to discover a compound that may improve the life of a person with a chronic disease. Later, I intend to become a professor, because I enjoy teaching chemistry as much as learning it.