Secreting Chemicals Allow Baby Beetles to Survive – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Secreting Chemicals Allow Baby Beetles to Survive

A William Smith senior is investigating the chemical makeup of secretions of beetle pupae that deter predators.

July 9, 2002 GENEVA, N.Y.—A William Smith senior is spending much of the summer studying the defense system of beetles. Emelyn C. Smith, of Tunkhannock, Pa., is investigating the chemical secretions of beetle pupae that allow the bright orange-yellow beetles to survive. Beetle pupae metamorphose into adult ladybird beetles, more commonly known as ladybugs.

Scientists have long been fascinated with the fact that beetle pupae are rarely disturbed even though they appeared to be defenseless. Recently, Cornell University Professors Jerrold Meinwald and Thomas Eisner discovered that the surface of the beetle pupa is covered with hairs, each bearing a tiny sac at its tip. The sac contains a combinatorial mixture of molecules toxic to ants, one of the pupae’s most persistent enemies.

Smith’s research is being conducted in the chemistry laboratory of Professor Carol Parish at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. These pupae defense molecules are very large ring systems that exhibit unusual chemistry. Smith is investigating the role of molecular flexibility in the unusual chemical reactions as well as benchmarking new computer methodologies for studying such large systems. Smith received an American Chemical Society Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship in support of this work.

Smith has already presented her research at numerous local and national meetings. In addition, Professor Parish will accompany Smith to two conferences this summer where she will present her most recent work—to the Northeastern Computational Chemistry meeting at Hamilton College in July, and to the American Chemical Society meeting in August in Boston.

While attending William Smith College, Smith has been inducted into the Laurel Society, a national honor society for juniors. She is the recipient of the 2002 Pim Tegmo Chemistry Achievement Award, and was a 2001 Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Scholar. During the academic year she works for the theater department building sets for theatrical performances and as a physics and chemistry tutor on campus. She is a member of the American Chemical Society and plans to pursue the Ph.D. in chemistry or chemical engineering.

Smith is the daughter of Catherine J. Garbus of Tunkhannock. She is a 1999 honors graduate of Tunkhannock Area High School.

The research is funded by American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund.

Carol Parish, assistant professor of chemistry, has been at Hobart and William Smith Colleges since 1997. She is an appointed member of the American Chemical Society’s Women Chemists Committee. Parish earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Indiana University-Purdue University, and the Ph.D. at Purdue University. She has also received post-doctoral training at Columbia University.