Bernard Essuman ’21 Tackles COVID-19 Research

“What I enjoy most about doing research is the fact that I’m able to solve real-life problems,” said Bernard Essuman ’21, a biochemistry major now conducting research into the binding intensity of COVID-19.

Bernard Essuman
Bernard Essuman ’21

“The study is important; it will help us to understand how COVID-19 interacts with 3D-printed face shields, cotton, skin and hair,” Essuman said. “We might be able to predict how long COVID-19 sticks to surfaces, and develop means of combating it.”

From his studies at Suffolk County Community College in computer science and chemistry, to his current Stony Brook University experiences as a biochemistry and applied mathematics double major involved in multiple undergraduate research projects with three different faculty research mentors, Essuman has been intensely focused on learning, gaining experience and training to solve problems.

His COVID project began with modelling a Fibrinogen-PLA (sheet) complex and performing simulations on the SeaWulf computational cluster, and is being conducted in collaboration with Yuefan Deng , from the Department of Applied Mathematics & Statistics, and Miriam Rafailovich, from the Department of Materials Science & Chemical Engineering. Essuman has also worked on several computational and structural biology projects, including another current project under the mentorship of Carlos Simmerling, from the Department of Chemistry and the Laufer Center for Computational Biology, on dihedral stability tests to analyze how well force fields predict protein structures. 

Essuman’s first experience in research came about through participating in the 2014 NIH-funded BIO-PREP program (administered by i-STEM) where he was placed in the Simmerling lab, and worked closely with then PhD student Kevin Houser on the “MTERF1-DNA binding and recognition mechanism.” While developing his skills in computational structural biology in the Simmerling lab, his contributions to a project were recognized by being named second author on “A Human Transcription Factor in Search Mode” (Nucleic Acids Research, Dec. 2015). During 2015, he began experimenting with 3D printing and learning new skills as an REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates, sponsored by the National Science Foundation) mentor for high school students in the Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineering Interfaces directed by Rafailovich. In preparation for starting the Fibrinogen-PLA project with Professors Deng and Rafailovich, Essuman took graduate-level coursework in Principles of Parallel Computing to enhance his skills.

Essuman’s long-term goal is to pursue an MD/PhD. Prior to moving to the US from Ghana in 2011, he had completed two years of pharmacology studies at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. In his spare time, Essuman enjoys watching movies, especially Marvel and DC Comics productions. 

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