TILF Success Stories: Meet Jeremy Binagia

Posted by Trudy Richards on 01/13/2015


Jeremy Binagia's research has focused on how bacterial cells build tolerance to antibiotics.

Breaking the mold is not out of the ordinary for Jeremy Binagia. So when he was chosen as a research fellow for Purdue University, he didn’t settle for just white coats and goggles.

Alongside a team of researchers, he and his colleagues ran a series of simulations that depict how bacteria communicate as part of an 11-week program sponsored by Purdue. (Read more about the research here.)

“What my research involved was modeling the process of conjugation in bacteria, where bacteria communicate by transmitting their genes to one another. It’s useful because if bacteria one is resistant to one antibiotic, bacteria two can send out a signal to tell bacteria one to transfer the resistant genetic information,” Jeremy said.

A junior studying Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, Jeremy is a recipient of the Welch Foundation scholarship, and has put his love of science to good use through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program at Purdue University.

Chosen out of a pool of the top undergraduate candidates, Jeremy gained the chance to assist professor Doraiswami Ramkrishna in researching how bacterial cells build tolerance to antibiotics. “We worked to model the signaling network between bacteria. It involved a lot of mathematical modeling and simulation,” he said.

“It was a pretty unique experience. When people talk about undergraduate research they’re usually in a lab with pipets and beakers, but this was all done through a computer, “ Jeremy said.

It was a lengthy process that required coding data into a system that then ran the simulations. Out of the 40 hours he spent in the lab each week, Jeremy’s most revered moments came from when the code was successful and the simulation ran smoothly.  “Anytime I got something to run was a memorable moment. You spend a lot of time looking for errors in the coding and usually it’s just a small mistake. Finding those little things and getting it to work, seeing the figure come up, that was the most enjoyable part,” he said.

Now his work has been published through Purdue, and Jeremy is glad people can review the findings. “I went through the whole process of writing the abstract, and I’m hoping to publish a full-fledged paper in the future, so this was a great experience,” he said.

With a publication under his belt, Jeremy’s goals don’t stop there. “I definitely want to do something with theory and simulation in the future,” he said.

Aside from his research aiding in expanding the body of human knowledge, the real-world implications cannot be understated.

“The way this resistance spreads is responsible for a good number of deaths every year; in hospitals bacteria can spread this resistance,” he said. At a time when the spread of highly contagious diseases has called into question hospital sanitation practices, Jeremy and his team are at the cutting edge of better understanding how diseases interact. “It’s important to understand how we can stop the spread of antibiotic resistance,” he said.

This success was nothing new for Jeremy as proven by his track record in UIL activities.

“When I was a freshman a senior really encouraged me to join UIL, but it wasn’t actually until the next year that I joined” he said. As a saxophonist, he competed in the Texas State Solo & Ensemble Contest, in additional to excelling in Mathematics, Science, Number Sense, and Calculator Applications as a member of the Port Neches High School UIL team. It was in the wake of competition and preparation that Jeremy realized he had found a spark of inspiration to become involved in the world of science and engineering.

“Through competing I felt like it gave me the confidence to pursue my major. I wanted to do something where I could use my abilities to the fullest,” he said.

Though he is pursuing a career in chemical engineering, the joy Jeremy experienced through participation in UIL music events is something he still carries with him.

As the vice president internal of the Engineering Chamber Orchestra, Jeremy has taken his talent as a saxophonist and given back to the community. “We’ll go out to elementary schools, nursing homes, and we even play at the Honor’s Day reception for engineering as part of a string quartet,” Jeremy said.

“At the end of the semester we have a line-up of concerts, and getting to listen to other people’s music is the best part. The orchestra played a jazz combo with a rendition of “All Blues” by Miles Davis that was really great,” he said.

Though Jeremy has contributed much to the scientific community, he still hopes to make waves. “My plan is pursue a PhD in chemical engineering. My ultimate goal is be on track to become a tenured professor at a large research university like UT so I can lead my own research group and teach students,” Jeremy said. He hopes to lead in innovative research, enriching the lives of undergraduates in the way his fellowship impacted him.


Written by Katarina Antolovic

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