The Courage to Discover Something New

Research led by Professor Jennifer Shepherd, Ph.D. and her students could aid in the development of critical antiparasitic and antimicrobial drugs.

February 03, 2023
Video by Zack Bagdon ('16)

Inherent in Gonzaga University ’s mission is providing an education that prepares students for lives of leadership and service for the common good. Often, it takes courage to dedicate one’s pursuits for the betterment of others. Sometimes that courage lives in the quiet persistence of trial and error.

Such is the case with Jennifer Shepherd, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who has led students in the research of a unique molecule in parasites, called rhodoquinone (RQ), for more than two decades.

RQ is a self-produced molecule that allows worms to thrive in low-oxygen environments, such as human intestines. By studying RQ, Shepherd is hopeful for the development of new antimicrobial and antiparasitic drugs, which is vital as no new treatments have been introduced since the 1970s and resistance to these drugs is growing.

New medication has the potential to help billions of people worldwide who suffer from illnesses caused by unsanitary drinking water and limited access to health care.

The study of RQ has been personal for Shepherd since 2002 when she visited Ghana and not only witnessed firsthand the distress these illnesses can cause, but experienced it, too. She continues to return to Ghana to visit family and friends and remains at the forefront of this niche field of biological chemistry, with nearly 80 percent of RQ biosynthesis research completed at Gonzaga.

With a passion to help people, collaboration with labs all over the world, and the tenacity to never give up, Shepherd has demonstrated the courage to persevere toward new discoveries.

This is the first installment of our "Stories of Courage" video series. Stay tuned for next month's video featuring student athlete Rhea Jansen. For more about how courage takes shape at Gonzaga and what life's like as a Zag, visit

  • Academics
  • Global Impact
  • College of Arts & Sciences
  • Chemistry