Kopchick Fellow and Goldwater Winner Talks Research at IUP

Posted on 9/18/2020 9:36:54 AM

Arie Van Wieren’s evolution into the biochemistry major and relentless researcher he is today can be classified as transformative.

Since starting in Sudipta Majumdar’s chemistry lab his freshman year, Van Wieren’s perception of science changed from dry and limiting to creative and expressive. He immersed himself in research, and, in the summer after his freshman year and each summer since, he has participated in IUP’s 10-week summer research program, now known as Undergraduate Summer Opportunities for Applying Research.

His doggedness has paid off, as his list of accomplishments keeps growing: 

  • First IUP student presenter at Harvard University’s National Collegiate Research Conference
  • Lead author of an article published in Journal of Molecular and Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Invited presenter at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in Philadelphia, a trip that was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic
  • Recipient of the 2020 Goldwater Scholarship, the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in mathematics, natural sciences, and engineering
  • Recipient of the 2020 Kopchick Summer Fellowship, a research experience at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The initiative, funded by John Kopchick ’72, M’75 and Char Labay Kopchick ’73, affords one qualified student from IUP’s Kopchick College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics the opportunity to spend 10 weeks living in Houston and researching at the massive medical campus. Van Wieren’s experience was canceled because of restrictions in place during the pandemic.

As a student in IUP’s Cook Honors College, he credits his success in studying antibiotic resistance to Majumdar.

“I can’t express enough how his guidance and support have impacted me,” Van Wieren said. “As a mentor, he is the complete picture. He’s helping me shape a career in science by making sure I’m competitive inside the research community. He’s helping me plan my career and giving me guidance and opportunities that I’m not sure I’d have at another institution.”

What is he researching? Antibiotic resistance by way of targeting an enzyme—alanine racemase—in hopes of developing a new antibiotic drug. Some studies report that by 2050 more people will die annually from infection than from cancer. The race is on.