Maria Filsinger Interrante, Christian Choe, Zachary Rosenthal

Stanford University
Novel Proteins to Fight Superbug Bacterial Infections
Undergraduate Team Winner

The three members of Stanford University’s Team Lyseia come from different backgrounds and diverse areas of expertise, but they share a strong interest in addressing the growing global threat of bacterial infections caused by antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” The team won the $10,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize in the “Cure it!” category for their work in developing a novel protein therapeutic with the potential for treating such infections—and saving lives.

Senior team member Maria Filsinger Interrante is a dual Mexican-American citizen from Minnetonka, Minn., where she took advanced science and math courses at the University of Minnesota while still in high school. She conducted research in protein engineering, metabolic engineering, and synthetic biology as a Stanford undergraduate. She held several leadership positions in the Stanford Society of Women Engineers, where she doubled the number of K-12 students reached by the group’s STEM education initiatives as Director of Outreach. She also served as captain and co-president of the 40-member Stanford Equestrian Team, earning “Most Valuable Player” honors in 2014 and competing at the National Championships in 2014 and 2016. She has been a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with the university’s Emergency Medical Service since her sophomore year. Maria received a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering in 2016 and is now enrolled in Stanford’s Medical Scientist Training Program, working toward a joint MD/PhD degree. Ultimately, she hopes to combine her engineering and medical experience to develop novel therapeutics, particularly in the areas of immuno-oncology and infectious disease.
Christian Choe grew up in Fullerton, Calif., where he spent his free time conducting home-chemistry experiments ranging from purifications to the synthesis of small organic compounds. He is the long-time president of the Stanford American Institute of Chemical Engineers, a leader in the ChEM-H Entrepreneurship Club, and captain of the school’s Chem-E-Car Team, which designs small chemically powered automobiles used in competitions. He has taken honors in the National Science Olympiad, the USA Biology Olympiad, and the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad. Currently, he works under Professor James Swartz in the Department of Chemical Engineering on stabilizing virus-like particles for lyophilized vaccines and under Dr. TJ Lane at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory on inferring protein kinetics from unordered protein conformations. Christian will graduate in June 2017 with both a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in electrical engineering, and plans to pursue a PhD in bioengineering at Stanford University.

Zachary Rosenthal grew up in Houston, Texas, where he competed in debate competitions throughout the United States. While at Stanford, he continued those efforts by serving as president of the Stanford Youth Debate Initiative, leading after-school debate programs and coordinating tournaments at four disadvantaged area high schools—an effort he believes will help students develop critical-thinking, information-processing, and presentation skills that will serve them well in any career. He currently works as a research assistant in the Department of Chemical and Systems Biology, where he works under Professor James Chen to develop new small-molecule therapeutics for Hedgehog-pathway related cancers. He also worked as a research assistant in the Department of Gastroenterology & Hepatology. Zach will receive a bachelor’s degree in biological chemistry in June 2017. After graduation, he will work in healthcare consulting while applying to medical school, where he hopes to obtain the clinical training necessary for bringing new therapeutics to fruition.