Carly Slough ’24 named Beckman Scholar
Carly Slough ’24 was an ocean away when she received a late-night notification that she’d been selected to participate in the Beckman Scholars Program. A chemistry and Japanese major from Knoxville, Tennessee, Slough was studying in Japan when she got word.
The Beckman Scholars Program is a 15-month mentored research experience for exceptional undergraduate students in chemistry, biological sciences or interdisciplinary combinations of the two. Each May, Beckman Scholars institutions with active awards name their honorees.
Since the program’s inception in 1999, Furman has earned consecutive funding over multiple three-year cycles. Past awards have supported research into the chemical origins of life, discoveries related to solar energy, the study of cloud aerosols to inform our understanding of climate change, and research focused on bacteria-resistant films for lining water pipes, for example.
Slough and her research advisor, Mary Beth Daub, assistant professor of chemistry, are working with chemical compounds that, when paired with antimicrobials, aim to curb antimicrobial resistance, or AMR. Due to misuse or overuse of antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics and other factors, AMR is considered one of the largest threats to global health and development.
Take opportunistic yeast Candida albicans. Sometimes dubbed the “sneaky yeast,” C. albicans quietly lives in and on our bodies without causing a fracas. But if the balance of bacteria and fungus that naturally occurs gets off-kilter, overgrowth of yeast happens, which can lead to life-threatening infection of the blood and vital organs.
“In the lab, I’m trying to synthesize a chemical compound, an adjuvant, which helps antibiotics and antifungals do their jobs,” Slough said. “So if I can make this compound, and other chemists can use it to make those adjuvants, then we can help fight against drug resistance.”
And the way Slough is creating the compounds is more sustainable than the traditional approach.
“Previous methods of synthesizing similar compounds use harsh, expensive reagents that aren’t environmentally friendly,” Slough said. So, the researchers are using visible light, or photocatalysis, to trigger chemical reactions. “Photochemistry is a simpler and greener way to get results,” she explained.
While Daub is on family leave, Slough, who plans on pursuing a Ph.D. after graduating, is exercising a measure of autonomy in the lab.
“I’m glad I’ve had a couple of years of experience under my belt so far, and everyone in the Chemistry Department is super supportive,” she said. “Dr. Daub is there for us when she is able to, which is really nice. All of us in my lab have gained a little independence, and we’ve had to adjust to challenges in our own ways. That’s something I really appreciate,” Slough added.
“Carly’s curiosity and attention to detail make her well-suited to complete her research project,” Daub wrote in an email. “She has already made tremendous progress, and her discoveries will help us better understand the reactivity of the compounds we’re studying and their potential applications in the treatment of fungal infections.”