Enabling Drug Discovery – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Enabling Drug Discovery

Dartmouth College Associate Professor of Chemistry Jimmy Wu was chosen by students in the capstone chemistry class to present the Dr. Edward Franks ’72 Lecture in October. Wu’s public talk was titled “Enabling Drug Discovery Through Organic Chemistry.”

Pelkey erin class 1

Wu’s research has focused on the development of new reactions for synthesizing compounds that have potential therapeutic value. His recent work involves identifying molecules that could play a role in controlling leukemia cells.

Funded by Franks, who earned a B.S. in chemistry at Hobart, the lecture series bearing his name brings prominent members in the field of chemistry to campus for two lectures: a public lecture and a lecture focused on chemistry. Starting this year in connection with the creation of a new chemistry capstone course, the Franks speaker was chosen by chemistry majors enrolled in the capstone course.

According to Professor of Chemistry Erin Pelkey, students were given seven potential lecturers and instructed to read their recently published literature. “In class, we go through the articles and talk about their work so that when we meet the speaker we can ask them more questions,” says Sarah Linsner ’20, a chemistry and educational studies double major.

“Professor Wu was a great choice because he is very successful at what he is doing (in synthetic organic chemistry), while also being accessible,” says Pelkey. “Professor Wu’s research is interdisciplinary (he collaborates with a number of biologists who test the function of the compounds that his group synthesizes) and he writes in such way that it was readily accessible by undergraduates.”

Students in the capstone course took Wu out to lunch, introduced him at the evening lecture, and had the opportunity to speak informally with him during their afternoon class.

“What stood out for me was when he talked about the unknown in doing research,” says chemistry major Brooke Boyer ’20. “You never know which compounds are going to be biologically active or useful. It’s a complete guess each time you make something new.”

Giving the students the opportunity to choose the speaker was Franks’ original idea. “He wanted students to be intimately involved in all aspects of the process—selecting speakers, hosting speakers, meeting with speakers, etc.,” says Pelkey. “His vision and financial support is what has made the seminar series a reality.”