Research at Hendrix

Derek Lowe '83

Chemistry Major

Research Fellow in Cambridge, Mass. Recipient of the Hendrix Odyssey Medal for Research, 2013-14.

Current projects

I am a member of the Exploratory Biochemistry group, which is a team of experienced scientists trying to work on difficult and even so-called "undruggable" research targets. We're using whatever existing and new technologies we can come up with to try to open up some very important areas of biology where it's been hard to find useful medicines. We're working on targets against various types of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, viral infections and other areas.

Undergraduate Research

My first research was in Dr. Goodwin's lab in the summer of 1981, when he was working on the total synthesis of maytansine. I still remember the first research reaction I ever ran (and once in a while I've actually made the same compound again since then!) Coming across reagents and reactions I did then is like visiting old friends.

How Hendrix prepared me for success

When I got to graduate school, I already knew my way around a research lab (the equipment and the general techniques). And that was a big help, but in the long run, the bigger effect of my undergraduate research was that I understood early on what scientific research is like. Not everything works! You have to be ready for that and know what you can do about it.

Future plans

I'm continuing to work on new ways to find drugs more quickly (and with a better success rate). The way we've been doing it is not going to keep medical research going at the rate we need, so there's a lot of room for good ideas.

My advice

If you find that you like research - not knowing what's going to happen in your work on any given day, being set problems that no one's ever solved (and that no one's even sure can be solved), and being the first to discover things that no one's ever known – then there's really no substitute. I have a hard time imagining doing anything else for a living!