“Research is a collective enterprise between faculty and students. Together, we make research progress. It is very rare for faculty in chemistry to do research alone,” says Erin Pelkey, associate professor of chemistry. “Somewhere between 99 and 100 percent of all research carried out by undergraduate students in chemistry is done in the context of a professor’s ongoing research program.”
The student- professor collaborative relationship is not unfamiliar to Pelkey, who had a similar opportunity in his undergraduate career at Carleton College in Minnesota. The goal of this relationship, he notes, is to “train the next generation while, at the same time, carrying out research.”
This summer, Pelkey is continuing this tradition with three students who are helping to develop new synthetic methods in heterocyclic chemistry.The goal of developing these new methods is to utilize the heterocycles with demonstrated biological activity (e.g., anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-HIV). These uses could have important implications for the field of chemistry and real-world applications for medicine and pharmaceuticals.The research is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Health.
Pelkey started this project in 2002 and since then more than 10 HWS students have worked on the research, in addition to another 20 undergraduates. He says many of these students continue on to doctoral or professional programs, or are employed in the chemistry industry.
Jessica Greger ’11 is a veteran of Pelkey’s lab, returning for a third summer along with two new additions to the lab, Nathan Bechtold ’12 and Scott Flewelling ’12. Greger, originally from Pine City, N.Y., hopes to attend a doctoral program in chemistry after graduation. She has already completed Honors as a junior and received three grants for her previous research.Greger learned of summer research opportunities before she was even a William Smith student.
“I got involved because I saw Professor Pelkey speak at a Trustees event. Once I decided to come to HWS, I applied to the summer research program and enjoyed the experience so much that I came back the next summer, and the next,” she says.
She hopes to learn more this summer about the writing process and applying for grants. Becthold, a Hobart soccer player from Lockport, N.Y., and Flewelling, originally from Ottawa, Canada, both hope to attend medical school.
In the photo above is (l to r) Nathan Bechtold ’12, Scott Flewelling ’12 and Jessica Greger’11 working in Pelkey’s lab.