Yaacoub Presents Research at National Meeting
Alan Yaacoub, a senior biology major and chemistry minor, is an American Chemical Society National Member and in the Tri-Beta National Biological Honor Society. This physics teacher’s assistant is conducting research on nanoparticles, under the direction of Dr. Birgit Mellis, assistant professor of physics. He will present his research at the National American Chemical Society Meeting in April in New Orleans, La.
Even amid all the organizations in which Yaacoub participates, he takes time to study his nanoparticles.
“My research primarily consists of nanoparticle characterization for therapeutic and diagnostic applications,” he said. “My previous research in this topic involved studying toxicity effects of gold nanoparticles through direct contact assays with prokaryotic cell lines, as well as characterizing nanoparticle size and concentration using spectral data. I also conducted studies on the photo-thermal effects of surface plasmon polaritron excitation on gold nanoparticles. My current research includes linking oligopeptides and proteins to gold nanoparticles through the use of protein crosslinking agents.”
With Yaacoub’s expert explanation of his research, it is easy to see why he is such an accomplished individual. He said, in layman’s terms, the characteristics he discovers will help people use nanoparticles for future medical diagnostic imaging, and even therapies for a wide range of diseases, with emphasis on developing less toxic and more targeted cancer therapies, all of this as an undergraduate.
Yaacoub has had a long road to get to UST. He began his college career at Purdue University. He then moved to Houston with his fiancée and began studying biology at St. Thomas in 2010. He feels at home at UST because the professors keep him focused on becoming an even more refined researcher and student.
“They have very high expectations of the students, but they teach us the skills and give us the tools we need to help us reach our professional goals. The thing that strikes me the most is the investment they have in the students. It has made a world of difference for my education.”
Working with Mellis, Yaacoub said she allows him to spearhead their current project. Because this research group is the first of its kind at UST, he said he likes that each team member challenges the others to continue exploring.
“She really lets me take the project where I want to take it,” he said. “It’s a multi-disciplinary team effort because I’m working with physicists, chemists and biologists. Having the extra minds makes it more fun. A piece of me feels like I belong here where I can study and do research.”
He plans to graduate in May and is applying for medical school.