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Searching for Antibiotic Resistance Solutions

Science Student Wins Top Research Honors
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Cal State Fullerton biology graduate student Kevin Chiem is hoping to change what has become a major health problem: bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Chiem is working on strategies to prolong the useful life of existing antibiotics, to which bacteria are becoming resistant, with research mentor Marcelo E. Tolmasky, professor of biological science.

For his work, Chiem won the Outstanding Graduate Research Award from the Southern California Branch of the American Society for Microbiology and bioMérieux, a multinational biotechnology company. He was awarded a travel grant to present his research in June at the American Society for Microbiology national meeting in Boston.

“Winning this award was an extraordinary honor and it reassures me that I’m on the right track towards reaching my career aspirations,” said Chiem, adding he is looking forward to presenting at the national-level. “I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to interact and discuss my research with like-minded peers.”

Chiem ‘12 (B.S. biological science) conducted research last summer at the Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina through the Minority Health International Research Training Program, directed by Tolmasky and sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

His thesis is based on the discovery of drugs that will inhibit antibiotic resistance to bacteria and restore the efficacy of antibiotic treatments. “More specifically, I screen for potential drugs and test whether such drugs are able to decrease the enzyme activity that causes antibiotic resistance,” he said.

Chiem plans to pursue a doctorate in epidemiology and aspires to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I appreciate that Dr. Tolmasky is always available when I need him and encourages me to resolve issues independently. His mentorship has helped me succeed at CSUF and will extend to my future career,” he said.