By Ben Rodgers ‘15
W. Andrew Dexter, a senior chemistry and biology double major at Simpson College, knew he wanted to work on a research project this summer.
He just didn’t know he would be doing so in Denmark.
Andrew left this week for Aarhus University in Denmark, where he will be doing research in biological nano-technology with Kurt Vesterager Gothelf, a leading scientist in that field.
For the past year now, Andrew has been apart of a research team at Simpson studying DNA Origami. DNA Origami is a form of nano-science where properties of DNA are taken and built into tiny, nano-sized structures that can be used to help better the human body.
“I first heard about all of the DNA Origami research at the Undergraduate Research Symposium, and I thought it was a really interesting subject,” Andrew said. “I never thought I would be apart of it, but Dr. (Ron) Warnet, the professor in charge of the research, asked me if I would be interested in being a part of it.”
Last fall, Andrew approached Warnet about finding a summer research project to work on, “and he was very optimistic, saying that I would be able to go somewhere to be able to do research. But I don’t think either of us thought I would end up going to Denmark to do it.”
Nano-technology is a very new and innovative field, and Andrew says his work at Simpson has proven both frustrating and exciting.
“It’s frustrating because you’re doing a lot of things that no one has really done before so you have a lot of problems sometimes,” he said. “But knowing you’re helping the field of nano-technology through your research is amazing.”
Andrew hopes the Denmark trip will result in professional as well as personal growth.
“I’m very excited about getting to research with Dr. Gothelf, and what I’m going to gain from researching with him will be very valuable to me as a young scientist,” he said.
Andrew said that the support of the Simpson faculty, especially Warnet, helped connect him with the Denmark researchers.
“I think Dr. Warnet had a very key role in all of this, and he’s helped me every step of the way,” Andrew said. “I’m even e-mailing him right now, going over papers that Dr. Gothelf has written.”
Andrew hopes the Denmark experience will help him reach his future career goals.
“I’ve loved doing research so far and I know I want to go to more school,” he said. “It’s just a matter of what kind of school I want to go to. I’ve thought about doing a MD PhD, like a lot of other students have done, but I know for sure I want to at least get a Ph.D.”
Andrew believes that if he had not attended Simpson College he would not have the opportunity to do this level of research, especially in Denmark.
“I probably wouldn’t have been able to participate in the undergraduate research that I’m doing right now. and I definitely wouldn’t have the connections that many of my professors have,” he said. “That has definitely been a huge influence on where I’ve been able to go and some of the experiences I’ve been able to have.”