Chemistry on Capitol Hill – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Chemistry on Capitol Hill

Yoon-Miller ’09 Presents in “Poster on the Hill” In Washington D.C., political agendas, bills and statutes are as common to see as national monuments. However, organic chemistry research conducted by a Hobart or William Smith student is not. At this year’s Council of Undergraduate Research “Posters on the Hill” conference, junior Sarah Yoon-Miller’s findings were the topic of conversation with a congressman, members of the American Chemical Society Board of Directors, the Director of the Petroleum Research Fund, and many others. “Sarah presented a poster titled ‘Developing New Synthetic Methodology for Biologically Active Heterocycles,'” said Associate Professor of Chemistry Erin Pelkey, Yoon-Miller’s honors advisor and faculty research collaborator. “Her research project was one of 60 projects selected from across the nation out of over 400 applications.” “I work with small nitrogen heterocycles, meaning that these compounds are mostly made of carbon and hydrogen, but have nitrogen as well,” Yoon-Miller said. “These are important molecules that are found in nature and have shown a variety of biological activity that includes antimicrobial, anti-tumor, and anti-inflammatory capabilities.” In addition to many other important findings for the project, Yoon-Miller explained that, “We utilized our novel synthetic methodology to prepare the lactam analog of the anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx and a cyclic analog of the GABA agonist baclofen. This research is significant because these syntheses are different and potentially more efficient than those that have been previously published.” While in D.C., Yoon-Miller ran into a few important figures in science and politics. Two of whom happened to be the Director of the Petroleum Research Fund, Christopher Hollinseed, and American Chemical Society Board of Directors member and prominent organic chemist, Madelleine Joullie. “Ms. Joullie came up to my poster and told me that she was very interested in my research, and she started asking me questions about it,” Yoon-Miller said. “Like Madelleine Joullie, Mr. Hollinseed was able to understand my research and ask me more challenging questions.” She also had a meeting with Congressman Michael Arcuri (D-NY).”I told him who I was and that I was presenting my research at the Council of Undergraduate Research Posters on the Hill conference, and I asked him if he would like to hear about my research,” explained Yoon-Miller. “He said yes, and we started talking about it. I was able to tell him about what I do and why it is important.” Reflecting on the conference, Yoon-Miller said, “To be one of those 60 posters accepted was a great honor. It was important to let Congress and the Senate know what students like myself are doing so they will support funding for science and research.” And according to Pelkey, the experience adds to an already impressive academic career. “Sarah was already published as a sophomore, contributed significantly to two additional manuscripts, and wrote a publication-ready 20 page experimental section for the follow-up manuscript to her first paper.” Yoon-Miller’s research was supported by grants from Sigma Xi, Rochester Academy of Sciences, Research Corporation, Dreyfus Foundation, and the Patchett Foundation. In addition, Yoon-Miller and Pelkey are grateful to several offices around campus for making the trip to Washington, D.C. possible including: President’s office, Provost’s office, William Smith Dean’s office, and the chemistry department.