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MBB Student Christian Jones Does Summer Research in Juárez Lab

Christian Jones is a fourth-year student in the co-terminal molecular biochemistry and biophysics (MBB) program from Oswego, Illinois. She has been passionate about drug design for as long as she can remember, and enrolled in the MBB co-terminal program, which allows her to obtain a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in just five years, to put her on the fast track to pursuing her Ph.D. degree. “I believe there are better ways to go about treating diseases without killing healthy cells, and I would like to help find the answers to complex diseases,” she said.

This summer, Jones was picked as one of eight recipients of the College of Science Undergraduate Summer Research Stipend, which allowed her to earn $5,000 for 10 weeks of research with Oscar Juárez, assistant professor of biology. Their project aims at developing a new generation of drugs against pathogenic bacteria, targeting unique and essential metabolic pathways. Specifically, they are designing a drug that targets Chlamydia trachomatis, the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease in the world, without compromising the host. This is done by purifying and characterizing the enzyme, crystallizing it, and screening the drugs developed during the project. Jones worked at Argonne National Laboratory to solve the crystallographic structure, and in collaboration with David Minh, assistant professor of chemistry, in the prediction of inhibitory molecules, thus giving her the unique opportunity to receive guidance from many experts in the MBB field.

“Christian is one of the best students that I have advised. She is very smart, skilled, and driven, and a great leader and labmate,” Juárez said.

These leadership and teamwork abilities have not only been beneficial in her summer research, but also in her extra- and co-curricular activities. Jones is a student athlete, belonging to both the diving and lacrosse teams, and a peer tutor at the Illinois Tech Academic Resource Center. She previously held positions as vice president of philanthropy of the Greek Council, philanthropy chair of Kappa Phi Delta sorority, and secretary of American Institute of Chemical Engineers-IIT. She devotes much of her spare time to helping raise money and awareness for cancer research. She planned an event, “Paint IIT Pink,” a campus-wide breast cancer awareness event benefiting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and shaved her head after raising money for pediatric cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

After finishing graduate school, Jones plans to work in the medical industry doing research on various drug therapies that could be utilized in cancer treatments and then later become a professor. In doing these things, she hopes to impact society in two ways: by performing potentially groundbreaking medical research, and by inspiring future students to do the same.