Nanotech NYC sits down with students, faculty and researchers from across the city to give those interested a glimpse into the local nanotechnology scene. Today we sit down with Jonathan Stoeber, a 3rd year PhD student in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.
Tell us a little bit about where you are from (hometown, what it’s like there).
I grew up in a small, inner-city community, Reading, Pennsylvania, about an hour outside of Philadelphia. Reading is your standard working-class city, riddled with drugs and poverty and an economy dependent upon manufacturing jobs. Growing up in this environment was definitely interesting and by no means easy. However, I love the city where I’m from and extremely thankful for all the experiences that have helped me during the course of my research career.
Where did you complete your undergraduate and any graduate degrees prior to this one?
I completed my undergraduate degree at Ursinus College, majoring in chemistry. Ursinus is a very small school, roughly 1,600 students, tucked into Collegeville, PA just outside of Philadelphia. It was here where I began my research career, working with Dr. Mark Ellison on various carbon nanotube projects. Dr. Ellison’s curiosity and passion for nanoscience resonated with me, and after many conversations with him, I decided that pursuing a graduate degree was the right move for me.
What is your current status as a graduate student?
I’m currently a 3rd year graduate student in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers University - New Brunswick. I’m planning to graduate at the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023, which will be a couple months into my 6th year.
What group are you in and what is the group’s overall focus?
I’m in Dr. Jean Baum’s group, where we study protein aggregation, alpha-synuclein, using solution NMR and other biophysical techniques.
What is your particular research on?
I am particularly interested in the mechanisms of aggregation and the properties of the resulting fibrils that are formed. For example, I am starting a project aimed at studying the interactions between gold nanoclusters and alpha-synuclein. I’ll be utilizing solution NMR, UV-Vis, and Thioflavin T fluorescence assays to determine the interactions between the nanoclusters and alpha-synuclein and their resulting effects on the aggregation pathway. I also utilize atomic force microscopy and solid-state NMR to characterize the fibrils that are formed.
Can you tell me about some potential future applications for your work?
The ultimate goal would be to develop a nanotechnology that can treat Parkinson’s Disease by inhibiting the formation of toxic aggregates. If that doesn’t come to fruition, I am hoping that I can shed some light on the interactions that cause inhibition, which will be crucial information when developing future therapeutics for Parkinson’s.
How did you figure out you wanted to specialize in this area?
I came to Rutgers knowing that I wanted to work on a project involving nanoparticles, but did not have a specific project in mind.
You seem to be interested in the intersection between science and policy. Tell us where that interest comes from and what activities you participate in.
I attended a workshop in DC called Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering. This was a 2-day workshop of various lectures on how a scientist can use their position to have an impact on policy, followed by a trip to the hill to lobby congress to support federally funded research. This trip was amazing and gave me the inspiration to pursue this work. Currently, I’m on the executive board of the Rutgers science policy graduate organization, Science Policy and Advocacy at Rutgers. We plan and host various workshops, lectures, and events aimed at increasing graduate students’ knowledge and participation with science policy, science advocacy, and science communication.
Where do you hope to take your career in the next 5 or 10 years?
I’m still deciding whether I want to continue my career in science or transition into science policy. If I decide to continue in science, I plan to do a postdoc, hopefully in Europe. I am very interested in the business side of science and would love to go to work for a startup on the business side of things. If I decide to stay in science policy, I will be looking to secure a job in DC after I graduate. My ultimate goal would be to work in the NIH, shaping the future of research.
What do you do for fun outside of your program?
Outside of the lab I try and be as active as possible. I play a lot of basketball and try and get some yoga and weightlifting in as well. Other than that, I hang out with my friends and watch a ton of sports.
If you could go back to the first day you started your graduate work and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
Take a deep breath, I know you don’t have a clue what you’re doing right now but I promise you that you’re going to figure it out.