Shannon Esswein is an MD-PhD student in the UCLA-Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program aiming to improve global health by utilizing a combination of tools in chemical biology, physical chemistry, and drug discovery to investigate new therapeutic targets. As an undergraduate and later as medical student, Shannon investigated protein misfolding diseases in the laboratory of Prof. David Eisenberg at UC Los Angeles. She participated in UCLA CityLab, designing interactive presentations and teaching chemistry techniques to disadvantaged high school students.
Through a Gates Cambridge Fellowship, she earned a Master’s degree in Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge where she conducted collaborative research with Professors Tom Blundell, Chris Abell, and Steve Jackson. Her research investigated the development of improved cancer therapeutics using structure-guided fragment-based drug discovery to target protein interactions involved in DNA repair. During this time, she has also helped to organize the Global Scholars Symposium, an international conference promoting collaboration and diversity in research, leadership and education.
Now, as a PhD student at the California Institute of Technology, she combines her interests in biological chemistry and infectious disease to tackle global health issues. By using techniques in cryo-electron microscopy and directed evolution of proteins, she is working to design a vaccine for Zika virus. Through her work in Women Mentoring Women and Outreach Chair for Women in Chemistry at Caltech, Shannon strives to advance gender equality in chemistry and education. As a future physician-scientist, Shannon aims to design novel proteins to improve treatment options and continue supporting diversity in chemistry research.