Chemistry Students Gain Valuable Hands-on Experience
Chemistry Students Gain Valuable Hands-on Experience

by John A. Lahtinen
Communications and Public Affairs Writer/Editor

Since the beginning of the fall semester, Allison Young ’13, a double major in forensic science and chemistry, has been working on a project using electrochemistry, a field that uses electrical energy to cause chemical reactions. The biggest takeaway, she said, was to expect the unexpected.

“That's just the way research goes,” said Young, who will be attending Boston College on a full scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. “This research allowed me to showcase my ability to work within a research group. During our research, we were able to work with equipment and programs that we would not have been able to use during our regular coursework.”

Anthony Davis (second from right), a chemistry lecturer, oversees a chemical research project.

The research project was made possible by a $10,000 research grant awarded to Anthony Davis, a chemistry lecturer in the Tagliatela College of Engineering. The funds were contributed by Frank Dworak ’72, chairman of Hobson & Motzer, a metal stamping manufacturer in Durham, Conn.

The grant was major news for Davis and UNH’s chemistry degree program.

“This is a big deal because conducting research is a big part of an undergraduate chemistry program,” Davis said. “This type of initiative will aid tremendously in certifying our chemistry degree program with the American Chemical Society, a long sought-after goal of our department.”

The research was conducted in synthetic organic electrochemistry, a field that works to replace hazardous or expensive chemicals with reusable electrodes in an effort to accomplish important chemical transformations.

“The chemistry itself can be very interesting,” Davis said, “and there is always a ‘green’ aspect that underlies every project.”

It wasn’t Young’s first time conducting hands-on research. Last summer, she was a research intern at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md.

“I was able to gain valuable knowledge and experience in governmental research,” she said. “I really enjoyed the process of running my own project, which was researching nanofiltration technology for water purification. When Dr. Davis emailed me regarding his research, I was very interested in taking part.” 

Young worked on a project using electrochemistry to oxidize different benzaldehydes (organic compounds) mixed with alcohols to produce esters (organic compounds).

Josh Santiana ’14, Shannon Tilly ’14 and Kara Kovacev ’14 also worked on a project that dealt with methods of electrochemically breaking targeted carbon-carbon double bonds, a greener alternative to a common technique called ozonolysis.

“This is a very sustainable synthesis method when compared to more traditional synthesis methods,” said Santiana, a double major in chemistry and forensic science. “The research that we are doing allows for a much more personal learning experience. I would not be able to learn some of the things that I am learning in a classroom.”

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