Quincy McKoy '18

November 8, 2017
Senior researches how chemical compounds can combat cancer

Quincy McKoy, ‘18, originally planned on majoring in Accounting when he applied to college. However, after participating in the University of Richmond Integrated Science Experience (URISE), he started down a different path.

“I was always interested in science in high school but I thought that I was going to do accounting because that was the main focus of my high school curriculum,” McKoy said. “When I did URISE that summer, it changed a lot for me and that’s how I got into the sciences and got paired with Dr. Parish.”

Having the opportunity to engage in research as part of the URISE program developed McKoy’s enthusiasm for the explorative aspect of science. He is now a chemistry major, and with Dr. Carol Parish as his mentor, has participated in the Fall Science Symposium for the last four years. The Science Symposium showcases student research projects and McKoy enjoys attending every year because not only does he get to see his fellow students’ presentations, but he also gets to share his own work with University faculty and his peers. 

“It’s a great event because you get to meet faculty who might specialize in different fields and for that moment you’re an expert as you’re presenting your research,” McKoy said. “The faculty are genuinely intrigued about your work and how they might be able to help or provide solutions.”

For this year’s Symposium, McKoy’s project was entitled “Nature’s Solution to Cancer: Enediynes: Understanding Enediyne-DNA Complexes from Binding to Apoptosis,” and focused on the enediynes’ radical nature. Enediynes are strong compounds that have the ability to break down DNA strands so they cannot repair themselves or replicate. These compounds have been of use in developing cancer drugs as they have the potential to stop random mutations and kill cells.

“One of the things we are looking to do, once we understand more about the binding and the process of the action in which it kills the DNA, is to see how we can get this to work only in the presence of cancer cells,” said McKoy. “From research, we know that cancer cells produce targets that make them easier to identify from receptors to different acids and enzymes. Hopefully, we can work with different groups or different collaborators to see if we can make this work for a potent compound.”

After spending four years conducting in-depth research on various chemical compounds, McKoy plans on going to graduate school for pharmaceutical sciences. He can see how research of enediynes would be of interest to pharmaceutical companies due to the possibility of the compound becoming a new drug. 

“I think ultimately I’d like to be working to understand pharmaceutical policy and outcomes,” said McKoy. “I’m very interested in understanding health care costs for different people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. I think that some of the work that has been done in that field recently is really exciting and it’s definitely growing so I hope to be a part of that.”

McKoy believes that the support from faculty and the amount of resources he’s received from the University has greatly helped him in his exploration of chemistry. Dr. Parish has acted as McKoy’s mentor for his entire college experience and has constantly held him to high expectations while providing encouragement.

“Research has opened doors that I couldn’t have imagined coming in as a freshman. I’ve been able to travel and present my work at different conferences,” he said. “All of the professors in the chemistry department are super helpful for my research, my academic career, but also my personal life. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation in terms of the University and my college career in the sciences.”