During Candidate Weekend, Weiwei He found an academic spark with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Serdal Kirmizialtin. Years later, He looks back at his PhD candidacy as being enriched by a fruitful mentorship..
The aligned research interests also played a big part in helping He decide on his PhD research direction and the start of that mentorship. His research mainly focuses on the structure and function of RNA and DNA through computer simulations, and understanding the role these biological processes play in disease treatment.
With the encouragement of Professor Kirmizialtin to attend conferences and apply for research grants, He collaborated with Cornell University on further understanding the now well-known virus Sars-Cov-2 RNA and trying to find possible antiviral drugs for it.
Besides supporting He in his academic growth and development, Professor Kirmizialtin often come up with “fantastic ideas that are worth exploring.” He could also count on Professor Kirmizialtin to offer constructive suggestions when stumped on a particular research process.“Professor Kirmizialtin is not only a mentor, but also my friend,” He said. Trying to navigate research work during the start of the pandemic was challenging but Professor Kirmizialtin made sure to maintain contact to lessen the feelings of isolation and frustration, He added.
He is looking to further his research study as a postdoctoral researcher after graduation and eventually pursue an academic career to advance the field.