August 12th, 2021

By: Bonnie Lin


March 11 th , 2020: NYU announced that all classes and non-essential research will be conducted
remotely as a precautionary measure for the COVID-19 issue that is getting worse. The sudden
transition into remote instruction was and still is, met with several challenges. However, classes
still managed to move forward with a combination of Zoom and online exams.
Research on the other hand is even more difficult, or even impossible, to fully transition to
remote operation. Ongoing efforts of research through remote settings increased to avoid
delay in research. Despite increased focus on literature research and computational
simulations, findings ultimately required experimental confirmation traditionally conducted
through wet bench research in a laboratory setting.

June 1 st , 2020: Remote research in computational design starts. As a Thompson Bartlett Fellow,
I worked on computationally designing phosphotriesterase (PTE) variants through incorporation
of non-canonical amino acid, p-fluorophenylalanine, to detoxify organophosphates. For ten
weeks, I was able to familiarize with the computational modeling software, Rosetta, and was
able to identify PTE candidates with increased catalytic efficiency and binding affinity with the
help of my mentor Farbod Mahmoudinobar and Dr. Montclare.

The idea of approaching protein engineering from a different perspective was full of challenge
and excitement. Both computational design through remote operation and wet bench research
are similar in two ways: that lasting feeling of accomplishment to participate and contribute to
the world of scientific discoveries and findings.



Fall 2020: Classes are being held through a wide range of flexibility to accommodate students in
the midst of a pandemic. Undergraduates are offered a choice of taking in-person classes, fully
remote or blended (hybrid version). Laboratory courses are offered in-person only and for
those that cannot attend in-person have the option of taking these courses the following
semester. Research can now be conducted in-person but under certain restrictions and safety

Although I enjoyed research from a different approach (computational design), I was ready and
eager to go back on campus. I was always a hands-on type of learner. I missed pipetting. I
missed protein expression and purification and struggling with making a dialysis bag. I missed
performing protein characterization studies. I missed being able to conduct an experiment with
my own hands and seeing results with my own eyes. However, what I missed the most is that
feeling, that feeling of anticipation while waiting for your analysis results, that feeling of
excitement to see results that agree with your previous studies, that feeling of observing
something different that might open the doors to unexpected discoveries fueled by our very
own curiosity. Despite the restrictions and precautions that needed to be taken, I was very
eager to go back to lab.

September 2 nd , 2020- My alarm rang earlier than usual as now I need to take commute into
account. After getting ready and completing the daily screener, I headed off to Tandon at
7:30AM. Due to safety concerns, instead of taking the subway (my usual form of commute
before the pandemic), I decided to drive to school which usually takes 1 hour with the traffic in
the morning. At around 8:30AM, I arrived at Tandon, tapped my ID and showed my completed
daily screener to the security officer.

11:00AM: After attending my first class, I made my way up to my research lab on the 8 th floor.
Although some remained the same, many changes have been made: 6 feet social distancing
where each research personnel are located at every other bench, laboratory shifts being
implemented to avoid everyone coming in all at once, limited capacity in the office space,
contact tracing and etc. Despite the changes being made, as soon as I held my first pipette of
the day to conduct my experiment, that feeling soon surged back into me. With added safety
precaution, I submerged myself into that feeling I missed for six months and got right to work.

Even with the midst of the pandemic, research is still ongoing. Even with the added boundaries
created by the pandemic, scientific discoveries are still being made every second every minute
every day. Why? Because science has no boundaries.