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Senior Accomplishes Goal: ‘Publish in a Journal’

Environmental health major co-authors paper about discovery linked to fighting cancer
12/6/2017

Mike Jorgensen

ESF undergraduate Mike Jorgensen had a goal in mind throughout his studies as a senior environmental health major and chemistry minor.

"It was my goal to publish in a journal," said Jorgensen, "but I never expected it to happen-especially in a journal like JACS. It's amazing."

Midway through his senior year, Jorgensen is a co-author on a paper recently published in the prestigious Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). He and Dr. Jose Giner, a natural products chemist at ESF, were part of a team that made a discovery involving hedgehog proteins with positive implications for the study of cancer biology. Using the proteins, they discovered a synthetic chemical that can be used to study the role of the proteins in the growth and spread of cancer.

"There are not many students Mike's age who get published. I've had a few, but not in JACS," Giner said. "It's quite an accomplishment for an undergraduate."

Jorgensen began his college career studying engineering at SUNY Geneseo. He transferred to ESF after deciding to pursue a career in medicine.

"I wanted to be closer to hospitals, but I also wanted to stay in the SUNY system," said Jorgensen. "Now I can walk to three different hospitals. I also heard that ESF offers a lot of opportunities for research and clinical experience."

Giner said the term "natural products" encompasses a wide range of chemical compounds isolated from biological sources. "Many of these substances have medicinal value or exhibit interesting biological activity," he said.

Losing green space and a declining degree of biodiversity hampers the possibility of drug discovery from natural sources in the future. Giner's research interests include natural insecticides derived from flowering plants; antiviral compounds from marine sponges; and biomimetic synthesis, an area of natural products synthesis that is specifically inspired by biological principles.

The two met when Jorgensen was a student in Giner's Organic Chemistry II lab. He also took Giner's Drugs from the Wild course, which explores natural products as a source of molecular diversity for drug discovery, research and development.

"That class really got me interested in natural products chemistry and made me realize its applications to medicine," said Jorgensen.

After learning about Giner's research, Jorgensen inquired about becoming involved in one of his projects. "Getting in on research is really easy here," he said. "At bigger schools, you may not really know or even interact with your professors, but here, everyone is really welcoming."

- By Kate Hill