Maria Brouard, a spunky undergraduate studying Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering, beamed next to her poster titled Synthesis of Erm Methyltransferase Inhibitors. She had only one problem with her final project: it didn’t have enough color. Just one red line, labeled “Toxic,” stood out from the black structural formulas, diagrams, and text. But Maria and her group, which included undergrad Curtis Wu and research mentor Zachary Zinsli, didn’t need color. Their project provided plenty in its valuable goal: to develop new treatments for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and tuberculosis in particular.
For a full semester, Maria and her team worked with a mentor to synthesize new molecules for applications in fighting antibiotic resistance. Other teams in her course—Chemistry 100R: Experimental Chemistry & Chemical Biology—pursued research with applications in regulating enzyme function and fabricating organic photovoltaics. The poster session completed a series of efforts in scientific presentation: teams wrote comprehensive research papers, gave weekly presentations to their classmates, and prepared short “elevator speeches” to accompany their poster projects. These efforts, designed to appeal to a general scientific audience, teach students that effective communication of research results is critical to effective science.
In another Advanced Laboratory course, Chemistry 165: Experimental Physical Chemistry, teams of three or four students engaged in the same science communications exercises. This year, the students, along with a mentor, performed advanced fabrication and characterization techniques, including the development of Arduino-based gas sensors, inorganic nanotubes, organometallic catalysts, and biocompatible scaffolds.
One CHEM 165 team, composed of Spencer Dunleavy, Jake Hummer, Corey Husic, and Alex Zaytsev, produced a poster titled Getting a Sense of Our Atmosphere: Calibration and Testing of CO2 and O3 NDIR Sensors. Their goal? To collect and provide persuasive evidence to policymakers to demonstrate the importance of environmental protection. To do so, the students developed cheap, easy-to-use sensors to measure CO2 and O3 levels in our atmosphere. And, in a series of Harvard Square field tests, they achieved success with their carbon dioxide sensor. Although they confronted obstacles with the ozone sensor, their poster provided analysis and recommendations to steer future research in the right direction.
Despite challenges and setbacks, failed reactions or unexpected results, the students demonstrated one critical aspect of science: perseverance. Our students rooted out solutions and, in the process, earned more successful outcomes. So, what now? You can find the posters mounted on the first floor of the Northwest building. And, some results will earn publication in scientific journals, no doubt the first of many publications for our impressive, hardworking students.