My name is Josephine and I am a PhD student in the Laboratory of Inorganic Synthesis and Catalysis (LSCI). My project focuses on developing catalysts for the hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR) – the anodic half reaction of fuel cells. To date, the catalysts present in fuel cells are based on noble metals such as platinum. As these are rare (and expensive) we would like to replace them by earth-abundant metals such as nickel.
Having studied at EPFL at the Bachelor and Master levels, it was easy for me to decide to stay on for my PhD. EPFL is a hugely diverse school with great opportunities in a vast range of fields and offers access to cutting-edge facilities. Additionally, Lausanne and Switzerland are amazing places to live and work in, with direct access to incredible nature.
I joined the Laboratory of Electrophiles and Genome Operations (LEAGO) because of the interdisciplinary research being done at the complex intersection of Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Biology. Thus, I took a large leap from sunny California to alpine Switzerland to further develop myself as a scientist beyond what traditional chemistry could offer. Pursuing a PhD is a long commitment, so why not also live somewhere you are going enjoy—like EPFL right next to the lake.
My project is informed by the nucleophilicity of functional groups in amino acids, the structural folds of proteins, and how these two factors play a fundamental role in determining outcomes for individual cells and whole model organisms. The main goal is to understand how to target specific proteins and rationally design drugs with covalent handles. In fact, we recently uncovered a key protein-drug interaction that explains how a blockbuster drug works to decrease symptoms in relapsing MS patients.