SCU students are getting their hands dirty in Professor Grace Stokes‘s lab

Grace Stokes and Jacenda Rangel ’18 use green lasers to study how peptoids interact with cell membranes. / Image courtesy SCU

Students can see themselves in scientists of the future and the past in classes with Grace Stokes, Clare Boothe Luce assistant professor in chemistry.

In her lab, students investigate how peptoids, man-made imitations of natural proteins, interact with cell membranes—research that could result in better-targeted medicines.

“Everything is done by students. They learn how to operate the laser that we use to study peptoids and lipids,” she says.

Thanks to a National Science Foundation award, students will soon have hands-on experience with even more powerful equipment. Over the next five years, Stokes will receive $475,000 from this grant to upgrade and expand her student-operated lab.

Students also gain a sense of perspective from Stokes’ classes.

“Oftentimes I think they don’t see examples of their ethnicities in our chemistry class; they don’t see scientists that look like them,” she says. So, this fall, her general chemistry students are researching chemists from all corners of the world. “I really want to be able to increase the representation of Hispanic or black students in chemistry. I hope that this will allow them to find a sense of identity in these chemists.”

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