April 2, 2010
WOOSTER, Ohio - Three faculty members and six students from The College of Wooster recently returned from the American Chemical Society's (ACS) national meeting in San Francisco, where they not only shared their research with thousands of other scientists, but also received an award (honorable mention) for their work as a student chapter of the ACS.
Paul Edmiston, associate professor of chemistry, Melissa Schultz, assistant professor of chemistry, and Sarah Schmidtke, assistant professor of chemistry represented the faculty, while seniors Rachel Bennett, Deanna Pickett, Elana Stennett, and Laura West, along with juniors Zachery Matesich and Elizabeth Sakach, represented the student body.
"Our students did an excellent job in communicating the results of their research to the greater scientific community," said Schmidtke. "It was a wonderful opportunity for them to travel to a national meeting and participate in larger conversations about science. They were able to meet and listen to some of the preeminent chemists from around the world. The degree of participation by both students and faculty at the conference is indicative of the high-caliber research being performed by undergraduates at Wooster."
Edmiston, in collaboration with Pickett and West, explained the applications and properties of a swellable glass material (Osorb) he discovered that is able to remove contaminants from ground water. Pickett analyzed the large-scale applications; West looked at use of the material as a method for testing for diseases, such as tuberculosis; and Edmiston discussed the applications of
using it to remove contaminants from water and its applications to biofuels.
Bennett, who also worked with Edmiston, presented work she has done in developing sensors that would be able to monitor or detect the presence of materials that are commonly used in explosives.
Schultz presented research analyzing the selective uptake of antidepressants in fish in both laboratory and field studies - a result of their exposure to the contaminant in the water. Sakach, in conjunction with Schultz and Cate Fenster (assistant professor of biology), looked at methods for measuring the presence of bisphenol-A (BPA, an endocrine-disrupting chemical found in many plastics and a contaminant in water) and its metabolites (byproducts) in biological samples. Her results suggest that a metabolite, which potentially has 10,000 times more estrogenic activity than BPA, is found in mice that have been exposed to BPA through their drinking water.
Stennett, who studied under Schmidtke, presented research about the acid/base properties of a series of benzophenones that are FDA-approved active ingredients in sunscreens. The compounds exhibit changes in their absorbance depending upon the pH of their environment, which is important to understand for both product formulation and their fate as an emerging contaminant in aqueous environments.
Schmidtke, Matesich, and Mitchell Thayer, a sophomore at Ohio Northern, presented their joint research analyzing the role that small modifications of a molecule and its surrounding (solvent/pH) can play upon its reactivity following exposure to UV radiation. The group has been studying PABA (an FDA-approved active ingredient in personal-care products as a UV-absorber and also used medicinally to treat infections of the eye) and its derivatives. Understanding the photochemistry as a function of solvent/pH is important in the formulation of commercial products (like sunscreens) and in understanding the fate of the compound in the environment, where they are an emerging contaminant.
Participation in the annual meeting was made possible by the College's student travel fund,
faculty grants, local and national ACS funds, and institutional grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Science Foundation, and Wooster's Physics Research Experience for Undergraduates.
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