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A Summer of Science

Jordan in the labMount student engages in cutting-edge Chemistry research

Summertime is often a time for college students to take a break. But for many Mount St. Mary’s University students, it’s a time to get ahead.

Jordan Desilva, C’14, is working in the Mount’s chemistry lab as an intern with the School of Natural Science and Mathematics summer research internship program, learning organic and inorganic synthetic techniques for chemistry reactions, and creating new molecules to act as better supports for certain metals, so they can serve as catalysts for organic transformations.

“We learned about some of the reactions in my science lecture courses but we did not have the time to actually see them in the lab,” Desilva says. “This internship allows me to apply the material I only knew from my textbooks and notes to an actual research project.”

Jordan works directly with Assistant Science Professor Chris Bradley, Ph.D., who’s research looks for ways to decrease both the cost and energy intensive nature of functionalizing oil derived products. Current methods rely on metals such as platinum and iridium, which are either toxic or expensive due to their scarcity.

Bradley says the internship program gives Mount students one-on-one interaction with faculty in a research capacity — a rare opportunity at larger schools.

“Rarely at a large research university would an undergraduate receive direct instruction from a professor,” Bradley says. “Instead, students would be paired with a senior graduate student and would may never see the faculty member. Our program gives Jordan direct access to faculty with extensive lab experience.”

“It has been a very rewarding experience to work alongside Professor Bradley,” said Desilva, a biology and biochemistry major. “I’m surprised at how much I’ve learned in a short time span. It has opened my understanding of biology, biochemistry and chemistry. I would definitely like to do more research like this after I graduate.”

Bradley says Jordan’s work will help the Mount receive grant funding for future projects. “He is working on a project not currently sponsored by a funding agency, so the results he gets can be used to show proof of concept of our work and often is necessary to receive funding on new projects.”

This summer internship program was made possible by an $180,000 National Science Foundation award supporting three undergraduates over each of the next three summers. Students will complement their training in synthetic techniques with computational modeling of the compounds they prepare. Undergraduates also have the opportunity to present their research annually at national meetings of the American Chemical Society.

“Involving undergraduates in cutting edge chemical research is my main priority as a research mentor at an undergraduate institution,” says Bradley. “Through the NSF award, I will be able to further enrich the research experiences of several Mount undergraduates. I feel fortunate to have received this grant, and I believe it will stimulate student interest in graduate studies and careers in chemistry.”

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