Tech Tuesday: Using yeast to cure human diseases

One University of Florida doctor is also using comics to help ignite an interest in science and engineering for kids.
Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 4:31 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Happy Tech Tuesday. I’m Melanie Moron with UF Innovate. And did you know that yeast could be used to cure human diseases? Today, talking to me is Carl Denard from the University of Florida. Dr. Denard, thank you so much for joining us today.

Yeah, thank you so much for having me.

So tell us about your research.

So we all know that yeast is used to bake bread and make beer, but in my research, we use yeast as a platform to engineer enzymes, reprogram enzymes for new functions. And these functions can be used to tackle a number of human diseases.

And how are you using technology to study the yeast?

So when we use yeast as a platform to generate, to engineer these enzymes, we generate lots of data and we can use high performance computing to take that data to help us design better molecules. And these molecules could then be better useful for the applications we’re interested in.

How did you get started with chemical engineering?

Out of high school, I wondered what kind of a profession or career I wanted to have, and I felt that chemical engineering could be the right call for me. So one of the things I did was I walked into a professor’s office, chemical engineering professor, and asked about what chemical engineers do. And the reason why I could do so is because she was the one African American professor in the department, and I felt comfortable to go in and ask. And after this conversation I walked up to the admissions office and said that I wanted to apply for chemical engineering and that was 21 years ago.

So I also heard you’re out in the community teaching about science. Tell us more about that.

So one of my major goals is to inspire more elementary school children, especially underrepresented minorities like myself, to get involved more in science, especially in engineering. So in that spirit we decided to develop a science comic where we introduced these yeast superheroes that go out to solve big issues in the community, in their environment. And in this way, we hope to reach out to more, to inspire these children, to see themselves in those roles. And to tell them more about how fun and easy in certain ways science can be.

Well, Carl, it’s been a pleasure speaking to you and hearing about your story.

Well, the pleasure is all mine and I want to thank you very much for inviting me.

And that’s another great Tech Tuesday in the books. We’ll see you next week.

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