The American Chemical Society (ACS) welcomed Associate Professor of Chemistry Justin Miller, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Kristin Slade, Assistant Professor Elana Stennett and six HWS students to present their research at its annual conference in New Orleans this spring.
Throughout the conference, students attended presentations relating to this year’s theme: the nexus of food, energy and water— meeting researchers from throughout the nation and learning more about ongoing research.
Miller directed the student team of Peter Banks ’18, Rabiah Fresco ’19, Chelsea Herr ’20 and Emily Smith ’18 who developed the findings, titled “Potential anticancer depsipeptidic HDAC inhibitors accessed via an optimized solid-phase synthetic approach.” Sydney Smilen ’18 also collaborated on the work, but was unable to attend the conference.
The study was designed to optimize solid-phase synthesis and purification of a linear protected precursor to Xyzidepsin, a synthetic anticancer inhibitor analog.
“My experience at the ACS conference put into perspective how each thing I do in the lab ties to the overall project; in that sense, the experience connected the small aspects of research to the large, overarching question we’re trying to solve,” says Banks, who completed an Honors project on the study and will pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Vermont following graduation. “During the presentation, I was able to answer questions I had previously struggled with directly and thoroughly, which was the most rewarding aspect of the experience.”
Slade and Stennett led Charmaine Chung ’19 and Jasmine Jackson ’20 who presented their research titled, “Effects of Macromolecular Crowding Enzyme Kinetics.” The study examined how tightly-packed cells impact the function of enzymes, and subsequently function like metabolism. Chung and Jackson began their research with Slade last summer, continuing this semester through an independent study. They plan to return to the lab this summer as well.
“Doing additional research has allowed me to develop more instincts in the lab,” says Fresco, who plans to attend medical school and become a physician. “I am always actively thinking about best practices and what comes next, but it no longer feels overwhelming.”
Since his arrival at the Colleges in 2004, Miller has mentored 39 students through his anticancer research. He also hosted this year’s American Chemical Society cooking competition during the conference. Miller earned his A.B. from Princeton University, Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and postdoctoral from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Slade earned her B.S. from the University of Richmond and her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the HWS faculty in 2011, she served as a teaching and research postdoctoral fellow in molecular biology at Claremont Colleges.
Stennett earned her B.S. from the College of Wooster and her Ph.D. in chemistry from Arizona State University. Before joining the Colleges in 2016, she taught at her alma mater in Wooster, Ohio, and conducted research on the applications of fluorescent probes in examining DNA.