Many WISE RP students are interested in doing research as an undergraduate student, and summer is a great time to do that! WISE RP encourages and supports students in connecting with faculty doing research and finding ways to get involved with some of the amazing research happening on the U of M campus. Below are just a few examples of students who have participated in some of those opportunities!
This summer, I worked with Dr. John Wolfe on the synthesis of tropanes, which are a class of organic compounds with biological activity. This biological activity is what makes tropanes important and interesting to organic chemists: tropanes have been used in antitumor, glucose disposal, and anticonvulsant drugs and have the potential to be used in many more. My project was based on the work of Danielle Schultz, a former graduate student in Dr. Wolfe's lab. She published an article about the tropanes that she made using starting materials containing aldehydes, and the goal of my project was to expand on the database of tropanes that are available to be used in pharmaceuticals. Another goal was to optimize reaction conditions to best suit the compounds I was using in order to produce the highest yield of product possible.
In general, my research process consisted of measuring out starting materials, combining them in a flask, and stirring them for several hours until the reaction was complete. Next, I purified the product using column chromatography, and analyzed the purity of the product using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). NMR allowed me to see which chemical I was getting by showing peaks at different places on a grid for each chemical. Finally, I weighed the pure product that I had obtained and calculated the percent yield. For me, I was able to make tropanes from both compounds that I started with, although the yields were relatively low, at seventeen to thirty percent. Therefore, one of my future steps is to continue optimization of reaction conditions. I also plan on starting the synthesis of more tropanes, with different starting materials, once I return to the Wolfe lab in the fall.
Doing research this summer was a great experience, and I felt much more connected to my project and the lab than during the school year, because in the summer I could just focus on research and not have to worry about classes and other activities. I became much more independent and did not have to ask my graduate student for help around the lab all the time. I was also able to analyze my own data and give my own input about why an experiment worked or did not work. I could not have asked for a better way to spend the summer after my freshman year, and I am very grateful to the Women in Science and Engineering Residence Program for giving me this opportunity.