Dr. Heather Osswald, a 2012 Missouri State graduate, visited campus Oct. 18 to present her research and interact with students.
A chemistry honors graduate, she went on to receive her PhD in organic chemistry from Purdue University. She’s a post-doctoral research associate at Scripps Research.
Osswald spoke about her work with anti-HIV drugs. She has synthesized a new series of HIV protease inhibitors, which is a major class of anti-HIV drugs.
“The discovery of HIV protease inhibitors changed the way we treat HIV patients and greatly reduced the mortality of HIV patients and morbidity of HIV/AIDS in the United States,” Osswald said. “Unfortunately, the virus is able to mutate in a way that provides resistance to HIV protease inhibitors already in use. Our design strategy has allowed us to synthesize novel compounds which maintain their activity against multi-drug resistant strains of HIV.”
Dr. Gary Meints, associate professor of chemistry and Osswald’s former adviser, exudes pride when talking about Osswald’s accomplishments.
When asked about the best thing about her visit, he said simply: “Where do I start?”
“It is great to see our students become so successful in their own careers as scientists,” Meints said. “She is doing significant work — 19 publications and counting — and the science was fascinating.”
Meints also said her interactions with students online and in person were awesome to watch. Her social media presence is for her scientific endeavors and advocating for women in science.
“Perhaps the best thing was her meeting with our current students,” Meints said. “In combination with her scientific presentation, she has inspired other students to pursue advanced degrees in their areas of interest. That is a pretty powerful thing.”
Osswald focused on how to create a culture that is equitable.
“There is still much work to be done to overcome implicit biases,” Osswald said. “The more people of differing viewpoints and life experiences we have as a part of the discussion, the more steps we will take. Yes, all people can do science, and yes, we need you.”
Osswald also praised the chemistry program during her visit, saying it helped prepare her for what was to come.
“I was fully prepared for the rigor of my graduate school coursework and cumulative exams, and I had some laboratory research experiences that set me up well for getting started in my PhD research,” Osswald said.”
“Osswald’s visit demonstrates that our department is providing strong academic preparation for our graduates to pursue scientific careers of their own and that our alumni feel strongly enough that they are willing to advocate for us as well,” Meints said.
Thanks for coming, Heather!