This article is part of a series featuring Centre College’s 2019 John C. Young (JCY) Scholars. Centre’s JCY program, now in its 29th year, is designed to serve highly motivated seniors, allowing them to engage in independent study, research or artistic work in their major discipline or in an interdisciplinary area of their choosing.
Chemistry major and math minor Patrick Dome (Lexington, Kentucky) spent his senior year designing plastics to bind to drugs and pollutants, using aspirin as a model drug, for his John C. Young project titled “Development of a General Molecularly Imprinted Polymer for Opioids.”
The idea for this project was inspired through Dome’s collaboration with Lenny Demoranville, assistant professor of chemistry.
“This project came about by combining my passion for polymer/plastic synthesis with Dr. Demoranville’s interest in drug detection,” Dome said. “I was introduced to Dr. Demoranville’s research while working for him during a student internship in the summer after my first year at Centre.”
Demoranville explained that they were originally interested in developing a fast screening tool for the detection of opioids and their metabolites in body fluids. Unfortunately, they were met by a number of challenges and were looking for a way to concentrate those chemicals prior to analysis. Dome came up with the idea of using molecular imprinted polymers—chemicals that are synthesized in a way that allows them to act like a “key in a lock.”
“Due to some challenges I had in getting proper licensing and materials in time, Dome shifted a bit to look at other over-the-counter drugs that have similar chemical properties,” Demoranville said. “By the time I was able to get him his original materials, he had found a number of interesting threads, and so, he continued working with the over-the-counter items. If anything, that made me stretch a bit to understand what he was doing. It’s been really fun to learn from him.”
While the research experience was challenging, Dome said he found the process to be both engaging and rewarding.
“This project helped me learn experimental design and helped me improve my problem-solving and troubleshooting skills,” he added. “My biggest takeaway from this experience is to expect difficulties in research and to be prepared to respond to and address these difficulties.”
Dome said Demoranville taught him how to properly address research questions and create a coherent plan for addressing them.
“This project gave me the opportunity to be independent in my research, while simultaneously assuring me that I was supported by faculty,” Dome said.
Having worked with Dome for several years, Demoranville said he’s developed into a very capable scientist.
“Working with him was incredibly easy,” Demoranville said. “Dome is very independent. We checked in on a regular basis, but there weren’t many problems to help him solve. He’s headed off to graduate school next year, and I’m sure that he will be really successful. He operated much like a graduate student would this year.”
Dome plans to attend graduate school for chemistry at either Duke or Carnegie Mellon University. He will also present his research at the National American Chemical Society Meeting.
by Kerry Steinhofer
June 6, 2019