On March 16, eight Centre College students attended the 251st National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Diego. Accompanied by Assistant Professor of Chemistry Kari Young and Stodghill Professor of Chemistry Jennifer Muzyka, the students presented a year’s worth of collaborative undergraduate research—something nearly half of Centre students complete before graduating.
Several students, including Cecilia Vollbrecht ’17 and Luke Presson ’16, presented work that was the result of summer research at places such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., and the University of Alabama.
Four students—Ben Brown ’17, Daniel Graham ’16, Perry Sharma ’16 and Alex Williams ’16—gave oral presentations on projects they had completed as part of Directed Study in Cheminformatics, taught by Muzyka during the fall 2015 semester. This was part of an intercollegiate online chemistry course, where students and professors from several colleges and universities came together in a hybrid online format.
Karan Aletty ’17 and Mary Cundiff ’16 gave poster presentations on faculty-mentored undergraduate research projects they have been completing with Assistant Professors of Chemistry Young and Kerry Paumi, respectively.
“The biggest highlight for me was the small collaborations I made with other ACS members,” Cundiff says of the national meeting. “While I went into this conference assuming people would just listen to my research and ask a few questions, I quickly learned that it is a great place for people to give advice on what is not working, how to improve your work or even give a different point of view on your topic.”
She plans on incorporating the feedback she received into her work for the rest of this semester.
Cundiff particularly appreciates the collaborative research she has been able to do with her professors at the College.
“Research is definitely not an individual project,” she says. “I spend almost every day in my advisor Dr. Paumi’s office, and I’ve been doing research with her for two and a half years. This research has challenged my organic synthesis abilities beyond what I learned in lab or lecture.”
This represents a trend, as more than half of the chemistry faculty has mentored undergraduate research projects in the last three years.
“I strongly believe that collaboration is a major key to the success of any research project,” says Cundiff.
A biology major, Cundiff explains that she came to Centre planning on ultimately becoming a doctor. She soon realized, however, that there are a number of ways to help people and pursue a passion for medicine that don’t require going to medical school.
“The Centre chemistry program not only introduced me to these options but also helped me every step of the way,” she says.
by Mary Trollinger
April 12, 2016