UB - University at Buffalo, The State University of New York Chemical and Biological Engineering


Mahmoud Kamal Ahmadi Ph.D. Student

I had my expectations immigrating to another country; however, the state of New York has an impressively diverse cultural community with very welcoming attitudes. In addition to the friendly atmosphere, the city of Buffalo is also historically and naturally interesting; we enjoy visiting the enormous Niagara Falls and eating delicious authentic buffalo chicken wings! Here at UB, we have many opportunities to network with and meet people from all around the world, from collaborative research projects to a variety of extracurricular activities organized by the university. UB’s suburban setting makes the cost of living very affordable, not to mention the peace and quiet – both of which make it a less stressful environment, allowing me to focus on my research.

What I like most about my Ph.D. study is the feeling of addressing a real human problem, not a fancy, imaginary one! In Dr. Pfeifer's lab we focus on heterologous host production of natural products. Natural products are organic compounds isolated from natural sources which are produced by the pathways of primary or secondary metabolism. Of special interest in medicinal chemistry are secondary metabolites, due to their invaluable therapeutic, antibiotic, antifungal, and antitumor activity. In fact, more than 50% of FDA approved drugs have been directly or indirectly inspired by natural products.

Natural products, however, are produced in small amounts or with slow rates in their native wild hosts, which makes these valuable drugs extremely expensive or practically impossible for large scale applications. We utilize metabolic engineering techniques to engineer E.coli to produce natural products with enhanced rate and elevated production titer. Moreover, well developed genetic manipulation and characterization techniques for E.coli makes it possible to produce novel analogues of natural compounds with higher or even new biological activity compared to the native counterpart.

“During your Ph.D. studies, think like a proton. Always positive.”

- Mahmoud