Rachel Knapp is a PhD student researching organic synthesis in the Garg Laboratory at UCLA. She gave us an insight into her creative methods and what drives her to keep pushing for new solutions in a well-established field.
My PhD research is focused on developing methods to synthesize complex molecules more rapidly. In modern drug discovery, organic synthesis can lead to bottlenecks in development and limit the chemical space explored, therefore new synthetic strategies are needed to aid the discovery of novel drugs.
Thinking creatively about how to build molecules is at the core of the research we do within the Garg lab. By using new creative strategies, we can think about building complex molecules in a new way that could lead to more efficient or selective routes.
I recently had the opportunity to apply this in a unique setting by developing an alternative route to the nucleobase present in remdesivir, an FDA-approved COVID-19 treatment. We anticipate that our synthetic route will further enable the synthesis of remdesivir and other small molecule therapeutics that possess the nucleobase.
My creative approach to organic synthesis stems from a general curiosity and love for learning. I’ve been fortunate to have found a research group that curates an environment focused on creative problem solving. The open nature of our conversations and support from my advisor and peers powers this creative thinking.
I think a lot of people don’t understand the level of creativity that is involved in organic synthesis and that it is not a solved field. There are a number of outstanding challenges, and to solve them it is critical to keep an open mind. Through this perspective, I’ve been able to make molecules through methods that were once considered unattainable.
Q: What kind of mindset do you need to achieve the Next Great Impossible?
A: To solve tough problems, it is important to keep a positive mindset, be open to creativity and always continue to learn and grow.