Chemistry Students Present at National Conference

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Saint Joseph's University students traveled to New Orleans, La., in April to present research in the field of chemistry to some of the best scientific minds in the country and to their peers at the American Chemical Society's National Meeting and Exposition.

Senior chemistry majors Matthew Ortlip and Meaghan Connolly presented a poster summarizing their research, which dealt with the synthesis of non-natural products. Essentially, the students worked to create organic molecules that, it is believed, do not naturally exist. The students then studied the molecules they created.

Ortlip and Connolly began their research as Summer Scholars at SJU, a program that pairs students with a faculty advisor who supervises the work. The program provided the students with valuable hands-on experience in their chosen field under the mentorship of Mark Forman, Ph.D., associate professor of organic chemistry, who also attended the meeting. The students earn a stipend for 40 hours a week of work.

"The Summer Scholars program made it possible to do this," said Connolly. "We have a fabulous advisor in Dr. Forman, and the work was challenging but fulfilling when it was successful. It allowed me to have a job and gain experience in the field in which I am interested."

While there may not be many practical applications for these molecular products yet, they are of a theoretical interest.

Also presenting research were SJU senior chemistry majors Matthew Weaver and Zachary Lutz. They conducted research with fellow seniors Lindsay Ackley and Danielle Smith.

Weaver and Lutz presented research that focused on how a specific protein in alfalfa plants senses oxygen. This research can serve as a model for how other proteins in organisms sense gases as well. Their advisor on the project was Mark Reynolds, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry.

The meeting allowed the students to spend time with some of the 14,000-plus students, professors, scientists and corporate representatives attending, providing invaluable networking opportunities.

"Presenting our work enabled us to get feedback from other students, professors and chemists," said Connolly. "And to be able to talk to new people about the projects they were working on was invaluable."

--David King '08

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