Home Lifestyle Student takes aim at aiding cancer research as an honors thesis

Student takes aim at aiding cancer research as an honors thesis

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Joshua Bondoc, working on a DNA sequence Sept. 20 for one of his classes.
Photo by Lexi Altschul | Staff Photographer

For one student interested in cancer research, Texas was an obvious choice.

However, Josh Bondoc, biochemistry senior, will not be caught adorned in a white lab coat, safety goggles and blue gloves. Instead, he can be found behind the bright screen of a computer as it runs lines of chemical equations in an attempt to find a cure for cancer.

Through his computer-based technique, Bondoc hopes to compile a list of potential molecules that will prove to be helpful in fighting cancer by predicting their chemical properties using his knowledge of computational chemistry. The properties he can predict will give him insight into how stable a molecule will be, its tendency to react with other molecules and its potential effects on human DNA and cells.

Bondoc grew up in Tomball, Texas, a suburb of Houston, where he decided at a young age he wanted to be a doctor. He had always expressed an interest in medicine, but in high school he became more determined to join the field after discovering his grandmother, who was living in the Philippines, had breast cancer.

Bondoc’s personal connection with the disease gave him a sense of importance to make a name for himself in the medical field as early as he could, Bondoc’s mother Doris Bondoc said.

“Since Joshua was young, I remember asking him what he wanted to be or what he wanted to do when he grew up,” Doris Bondoc said. “He specifically said that he wanted to find a cure for cancer so his grandma would not have to go through the pain and suffering that came with this disease.”

Upon entering the last semester of his junior year at Texas State, Josh Bondoc met Dr. Sean Kerwin, associate professor for the department of chemistry and biochemistry. After learning of Kerwin’s research, Bondoc knew he had found the professor he wanted to work with.

According to his faculty page on Texas State’s website, Kerwin’s research explores the chemistry of natural and designed molecules which can aid in drug discovery for cancer and other infectious diseases.

Bondoc’s research with Kerwin is heavily engaged in a computer grounded form of science known as computational chemistry. This type of chemistry research allows Bondoc to manipulate and form his own molecules that will be used to quickly simulate chemical reactions on a super-computer platform and process predictions about the molecules he creates.

“Reactions that would take someone in the lab hours or even days to complete, I can do all that in the span of maybe a few minutes,” Josh Bondoc said.

The results Bondoc receives from the simulations will provide information about the tested molecules to infer how each molecule will react in the human body and if those molecules will be advantageous in fighting cancer cells.

Scientists will then be able to use Bondoc’s list to confidently test the molecule candidates in a lab and potentially find the molecule that could cure cancer.

“Knowing that he is aiding in finding a cure for this kind of disease makes me really proud,” Doris Bondoc said. “I am… hopeful that someday his work will lead to the cure.”

Although Josh Bondoc is living his long-time dream of working in medicine, he decided to take his career in a different direction. After years of interning in the medical field, the struggle of watching people die proved to be more than what he had wanted.

“I was scared of people dying because I wasn’t good enough,” Josh Bondoc said. “I knew I would blame myself.”

Josh Bondoc has turned his sights to dentistry, a part of the medical field whose patients have the lowest mortality rates.

However, Josh Bondoc hopes to make an impact with his research, leaving behind a legacy as simple as an honors thesis comprised of a list of molecules testable in the search for a cure for cancer.

“I don’t expect to cure cancer,” Josh Bondoc said. “I just hope to push the research in the right direction.”

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