When he arrived at HWS, Fernando Banales Mejia ’17 thought he would pursue a degree in political science. After his first semester, he decided to take an introduction to chemistry course to satisfy goal four, “Experience scientific inquiry and understand the nature of scientific knowledge in both its promise and limitations.” However, Banales Mejia quickly found that he preferred chemistry to political science, and declared a chemistry major.
Since then, Banales Mejia has continued to enjoy chemistry courses, and is now working on an independent study with Professor of Chemistry Erin Pelkey and two other chemistry students: Nate Truax ’17 and Maeve Holton ’15. The study is titled, “The Lewis Acid Mediated Arylations of Tetramic Acids.”
“The aim of the project is to discover and optimize better methods for making compounds known as ‘arylpyrrolinones.'” says Pelkey, referring to greener and more cost efficient methods. These specific reactions only produce water as a byproduct, whereas “alternate synthetic methods to arylpyrrolinones usually involve precious metals such as palladium and harsh reagents such as triflates.”
“I am still in the process of learning, but my goal by the end of the semester is to gain the skills to become an independent researcher by learning how to read articles to approach a product in a different manner, improve my interpretation skills of NMR, and doing reactions on my own,” says Banales Mejia.
Banales Mejia credits much of his interest in chemistry to Pelkey. “Not only is Professor Pelkey a wonderful instructor, but he has an outgoing personality that motivates you to work hard. In my eyes, he is the ideal chemist!”
“Involving students in research is essential for their professional development. As with anything, the best way to learn how to become a scientist is to do science,” says Pelkey.
On campus, Banales Mejia is a Quantitative Reasoning Fellow in the Center for Teaching and Learning. He previously worked as an America Counts tutor.