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Lyon Student Earns Rewards for Research on Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

Triple major Jordan Trant (biology, chemistry, math) began research with Lyon College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Irosha Nawaranthe’s research team during her freshman year. Dr. Nawaranthe knew Trant planned to study chemistry and chose her to help synthesize, separate, and purify elements of an antibiotic that might combat drug-resistant tuberculosis, which is becoming more and more of a problem worldwide. Trant has been involved in the project ever since. If her research group succeeds at their task, its work will help treat individuals who have contracted hard-to-beat strains of tuberculosis.

“It’s really cool to be able to create something that’s actually going to affect people,” says Trant. “When you’re in the lab all day, you’re working with compounds and doing a lot of chemistry stuff. It’s good to step back and think this work will be used to help people.”

Trant has presented on the work many times over the years in Little Rock and Fayetteville, AR; West Virginia; and Washington, D.C. Recently, her top-notch presentations have earned awards. At this year’s Student Creative Arts and Research Forum (SCARF) on campus, she won first place for an oral presentation of her paper, “Fighting Drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis with Modified Rifamycins.”

“Winning SCARF was really nice. I’d presented it before but had never won something for it,” says Trant. “I felt appreciated. It was reassuring.”

Later, she won the Joseph E. and Bessie May Prior Prize in Chemistry for an oral presentation on her research at the Alpha Chi Convention in Portland, Oregon. Speaking before around 30 peers, she was also named the runner-up for the junior regional prize at the convention. 

Trant says the convention was a great experience. She and some of the other attendees had been to the conference before and were happy to reunite and explore the city. She says, “The conference is the hugest gathering of nerds ever. Everyone who goes has to present a research project. It’s a really fun time.”

Trant loved to see presentations of students from outside her field, treating them as great opportunities to learn more about the world. Watching the presentations, Trant felt Lyon had prepared her well for the future and had given her many opportunities, saying, “Other people were doing some neat projects, and we’re actually ahead of the game here at Lyon.”

Trant’s research, too, has prepared her for the future. Working with Dr. Nawaranthe’s team helped Trant experience what a job in a pharmaceutical company might be like. She says she enjoys the work, but her ultimate goal relates more to biology. In the future, Trant hopes to complete a graduate program that allows her to earn an M.D. and a Ph.D. at the same time.

“I wouldn’t have gone for a Ph.D. program if I hadn’t gone to these conferences and done research,” says Trant. “It’s a surprisingly supportive community. It’s great to be surrounded by people who are excited about your research just like you are.”