Adonis Cruz ’16 has been awarded a 2015 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Award from the American Chemistry Society’s Division of Organic Chemistry.
One of only 14 recipients from a national pool of applicants, Cruz was selected for this competitive and prestigious award on the merits of his research proposal, academic records, faculty recommendations and his passion for laboratory science.
The Division of Organic Chemistry annually awards SURF to outstanding undergraduate organic chemistry students in the United States. The fellowships provide support for independent research at their respective colleges in the summer under the guidance of a faculty mentor. In addition, the program provides financial support for recipients to present their research results and more.
“This fellowship is a big deal,” says Justin Miller, associate professor of chemistry and chair of the department. “Organic chemistry itself is a big field. This is select group of college students. If you look at their institutions, the fact that HWS is now going to be on that list says a lot about what we’re able to do. To be included is quite an achievement.”
Cruz said his passion for the field began after taking the first two semesters of organic chemistry. “The work I did in those two semesters captured my interest like nothing else in my life had, and I realized that I wanted to go to graduate school in organic chemistry and pursue a career in either the industry or academia,” he says.
Fascinated by the challenging problem solving he encountered in the classroom, Cruz was even more excited to apply the knowledge he acquired from lecture into lab. “My best experience in college came in the Organic Chemistry 2 laboratory, which was more like novel research than normal undergraduate lab work. I worked in a group of three on the solid-phase synthesis of an analog of the anticancer drug FK228. I had a lot of fun over the 10-week lab building up to a compound that, at first, seemed impossible to make. I vastly enjoyed doing the research and writing a report that put my analog synthesis into context. Finally, I loved that hopeful feeling that the compound I was making was going to make a difference.”
Miller has enjoyed watching Cruz’s interest and knowledge develop.
“Adonis has innate ability and discovered over his first couple years at HWS how to apply it,” says Miller. “When you discover at a certain depth a particular subject area, it becomes more than something to learn. It becomes something exciting, something you can see yourself doing. Once you’re engaged in that way you start to excel. I think Adonis discovered that joy in learning chemistry.”
The SURF award will fund Cruz’s research this summer with Miller, on a project titled, “Solid-Phase Total Synthesis of Cysteine-Containing, Depsipeptidic Natural Products and Analogs.”
The project will continue investigations toward the solid-phase synthesis of anti-cancer drugs, ideally to streamline the process and mitigate or solve the challenges arising from the transfer to the solid-phase.
“Adonis is the latest in a line of student researchers attempting to do the solid-phase synthesis,” says Miller, who has been developing this project over the course of his career. “With each new reaction you find new issues that prevent it from working, so you revise and move on as part of the scientific process.”