Ephrahime Traore, Chemistry Ph.D. Student
By Ryan Schoensee
Meet Ephrahime Traore, a Chemistry Ph.D. student and proud lab manager at the Metalloprotein Lab Group at UTSA.
As an undergraduate, Ephrahime found valuable leadership experience in a young multicultural fraternity called Beta Kappa Gamma Inc. This opportunity allowed him to step into his role as an impactful leader and share his knowledge for the betterment of the organization. Ephrahime knew that he wanted to foster his leadership abilities, especially in his graduate career. His search for a promising chemistry department led him to UTSA.
Ephrahime appreciates UTSA not only for its promises of diversity and opportunity, but for following through. "I have seen several universities place emphasis on diversity, but very little actually have their student population reflect that," says Ephrahime, "Ever since I became a Roadrunner, I have felt that UTSA is constantly climbing new heights and it has been truly exciting to be a part of that change."
Ephrahime values his department for how well members are able to work together. He finds it easy to get meaningful feedback and bounce ideas off his lab mates and other department members. "They always bring in a new way to look at the situation and assess it in a different manner."
After a series of lab rotations, Ephrahime found biochemistry to be equal parts intellectually challenging and personally rewarding. This mobility would eventually lead him to the lab of Aimin Liu, one of two UTSA biochemists at the time and who is now a professor and endowed chair in the Department of Chemistry. Ephrahime’s experience at the Liu lab has been among the most exciting of his endeavors. "I felt that I would grow the most as a chemist due to the plethora of techniques offered in the lab which can be used to solve a myriad of challenging questions," said Ephrahime.
At Liu’s suggestion, Ephrahime began researching HupZ, a protein in Streptococcus pyogenes. It is said to be involved in heme acquisition, which is an essential process for the survival of said pathogen. Further research made Ephrahime aware that drug resistance of these Streptococcus pyogenes has proven to be fatal in developing nations, primarily affecting pre-pubescent girls.
Ephrahime is currently investigating HupZ to determine its function in Streptococcus pyogenes using spectroscopic techniques such as, electron paramagnetic resonance, resonance Raman, UV-vis, mass spectrometry, and fluorimetry, as well as crystallographic techniques. Ephrahime and his co-workers have clues of the possible roles of the enzyme and are interrogating possible functions in this pathogen.
Ephrahime recently received the Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award. The purpose of this program is to enhance the diversity of the health-related research workforce by supporting the research training of predoctoral students from population groups that have been shown to be underrepresented in the biomedical, behavioral, or clinical research workforce.
"In my culture, there is a saying that goes, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ If it were not for UTSA providing me with the necessary support, for my advisor guiding me, for Drs. Ian Davis, Jiasong Li, and Inchul Shin teaching and discussing experimental ideas, I would not be where I am today," says Ephrahime, "This award is the fruition of everyone who has helped me along the way, and I cannot thank them enough."
Ephrahime is excited about his pursuits in determining and understanding the function of HupZ. With every day he spends in his program, Ephrahime learns more about himself. "It has not been easy so far, but that’s part of the fun, right?" he said, "Overcoming the difficulties to discover something entirely new."