Like many students at Brandeis, Jeremy Koob ’17 has the opportunity to work with scientists on groundbreaking research.
A chemistry major doing research in both the chemistry and biochemistry departments, Koob thinks that research, despite its complexity and time-consuming nature, is “cool.” For his chemistry research, this means “designing new catalysts for changing the way we impact the environment.”
For his biochemistry research, he looks at metals and enzymes. While these projects may sound daunting, the ability to apply science skills to research is an exciting task for Koob.
His motivation to do chemistry research is rooted in his curiosity about the environment. “I’ve always been interested in the environment, so hence the environmental focus,” Koob said about his chemistry research. For the biochemistry research, he was recommended to work with a particular professor.
Among the various tasks that Koob does in his research, “purifying and expressing proteins” are among them. “I could say that I’m doing nuclear magnetic spectroscopy but you might not know what that is,” Koob joked. For all of the scholarly aspects of his research, Jeremy admits that much of his research is quite difficult to explain to others.
“Working in research tasks that you do over and over again, the only interesting part is when you get to look at the data that you collect and are able to make a conclusion about what you are studying,” he said. By repeating these tasks over and over again, the hope is that eventually a problem will be solved or new scientific information will be uncovered. “The cool part is the you are [doing] cutting-edge research on real world problems that have the potential to change the world,” Koob said.
However, there are drawbacks to doing research. “The least enjoyable part is that it’s hard, it’s dangerous, it can be boring, it can be frustrating. 99.99 percent of the time, your experiments don’t work, so science is about that .01 percent of the time when the experiments work,” Koob explained.
Despite the odds, when a researcher like Koob is able to find this needle in the haystack, it is significant because you have “found something that nobody knew before you.”
A great research advisor can make all the difference in regard to whether the research will be effective and the experience valuable, Koob said. “The relationship between an advisor and yourself in a lab setting is very important. My advisor in Canada was unbelievably enthusiastic. That created a really friendly and open atmosphere.”
Doing science research has also proven to be beneficial in Koob’s undergraduate academic experience at Brandeis. “Learning the facts isn’t science, testing the facts is science,” he said. More acutely, the opportunity for Koob to synthesize and then apply what was learned in his science classes has been an invaluable experience at Brandeis.
For students interested in doing research in the future, Jeremy has some words of wisdom: “It’s definitely feasible, the environment is very supportive. The easiest thing to do is to talk to a professor because they will be able to give you an idea of what it means to be in a lab.”