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Student Highlights: Adrian Kalaw (COL'23)

Adrian Kalaw is a senior in the College, majoring in Biochemistry with a Statistics minor, and is on the pre-med track. He was born in Canada but grew up in Santa Rosa, CA, and after his undergraduate studies, he hopes to attend an MD/Ph.D. program to become a physician-scientist. 

Experience in Research

Adrian was first introduced to research through a biotechnology research course during his senior year of high school. He enjoyed the hands-on nature of research and the thought process required for data analysis and troubleshooting, which led him to want to pursue research in college. To that end, he decided to enroll in an Intro to Research course offered by the chemistry department during the fall semester of his freshman year, giving him the opportunity to work in Dr. Paul Roepe’s lab. 

Adrian has been working continuously at Dr. Roepe’s lab ever since his first semester at Georgetown, investigating the mechanisms of antimalarial drug resistance in Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite responsible for causing the deadliest type of malaria. His work in particular focuses on P. falciparum Chloroquine Resistance Transporter, or PfCRT for short, which is a membrane transport protein that is implicated in resistance to chloroquine (CQ), a common antimalarial drug. Mutations to this protein have been experimentally shown to lead to increased efflux of CQ from its site of action, and Adrian’s research seeks to elucidate how these mutations alter PfCRT structure and/or protein-drug interactions. He applies biochemical techniques such as growth and drug transport assays, parasite culturing, and protein purification to refine predictions generated from computational methods including drug docking, molecular dynamics, and AI protein prediction software. 


Prior to Spring 2020, the lab’s experience with computational methods was minimal, but due to the pandemic’s restrictions, Adrian’s inability to enter the lab lead him and his PI to develop a computational project largely unprecedented for the lab and field as a whole. The idea of working on an independent project without existing literature to base on was exhilarating to Adrian, who identified and introduced the software he found to be most pertinent to the lab’s work. He had to learn how to use the software by himself with online documentation and videos and was able to design computational experiments using only loosely-related work from other fields. What began as a temporary project now promises important insights; Adrian presented his results at conferences and is now preparing a manuscript for publication alongside colleagues from his lab. Even though there were many challenges throughout the process, Adrian feels nothing could compare to the satisfaction of seeing the success of a project that he has worked so hard in developing. His growth and success in this project have concretized his desire to pursue an MD/Ph.D. in order to continue research in his professional career. Outside the classroom, Adrian plays French Horn in an orchestra and Catholic mass and volunteers with the After School Kids (ASK) program at the CSJ.