Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering News

ChBE PhD Candidate Wins 2017 Outstanding Graduate Assistant Award

ChBE PhD Candidate Wins 2017 Outstanding Graduate Assistant Award


Svetlana Ikonomova, a Ph.D. Student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, has been awarded a 2017 UMD Graduate School’s Outstanding Graduate Assistant Award. Approximately 4,000 UMD graduate students serve the campus as administrative, research or teaching assistants. The Graduate School has established this award to recognize the outstanding contributions that Graduate Assistants provide to the University. The award conveys the honor of being named among the top 2% of campus Graduate Assistants in a given year.

Ikonomova, originally from Bulgaria, but raised in Japan, earned her B.S. in chemical engineering at Cornell University. She came to UMD in 2012 and is currently a trainee on the UMD NIH T32 Host-Pathogen Interactions Training Grant. Indeed, her current dissertation title is 'Protein engineering approaches to improving diagnostics and treatment of Candida albicans infections.'

"I'm working with a peptide called histatin 5, which is found in human saliva," she said. "This peptide has antifungal activity against fungal pathogen Candida albicans, but the pathogen produces enzymes called secreted aspartic proteases (Saps), some of which chop up and inactivate the peptide. I am modifying some of the 24 amino acids that make up the peptide to different amino acids to make the peptide more resistant to degradation by the Saps and also improve the antifungal activity of the peptide, thus enhancing the therapeutic potential of the peptide." 

In addition to her research, Ikonomova has been a MD Day volunteer, making a PVA solution for green slime; President of the ChBE Graduate Society (2014-2015), which included organizing ResearchFest 2015, and she has TAed for ChBE courses 101 and 437.

Ikonomova, advised by ChBE Assistant Professor Amy Karlsson, is on track to graduate this summer (2017). 

May 17, 2017


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