Pursuing chemistry that improves medicines’ effectiveness
Undergraduate research program advances chemistry major’s desire to help others and gain professional lab experience
Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories on work done by students who participated in the 2021 Stonehill Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE), which pairs students with an experienced faculty mentor to perform significant, publishable research.
For Nwanne Dominic Banor ’22, the opportunity to conduct scientific research as part of the Stonehill Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) wasn’t just about academics and professional experience. It was also about people.
“I am not only doing this research for my thesis dissertation,” he said. “It is also a chance to utilize what I have learned over the years to positively impact the lives of others.”
The chemistry major and digital humanities minor, who hails from Acton, Massachusetts, partnered with Professor of Chemistry Leon Tilley during the 2021 SURE program. They are hoping to advance the synthesis of new medicines by developing novel reactions for the introduction of fluoroalkyl groups into organic compounds.
“Fluorine-containing compounds have properties that often make them desirable candidates for pharmaceuticals,” Tilley said. “Consequently, new ways to produce them can lead to the development of novel beneficial medicines.”
Banor, whose senior thesis will focus on this research, enjoyed participating in this project.
The fledgling scientist also benefited from his work. Tilley notes that SURE provides science majors like Banor the chance to develop instrumentation skills. “Undergraduates at many other schools don’t often have the opportunity to run their own 300 MHz NMR spectra,” he said. “Someone usually runs the spectra for them.” It’s a level of hands-on learning that gives Stonehill’s science students an advantage as they pursue career opportunities.
“Students mentored through the SURE program also develop patience, organizational, and written and oral communication skills,” Tilley said. “The program provides a vital forum for students to interact with each other, share ideas and have fun.”
In addition to running the NMR spectrometer for compound analysis and characterization, Banor also gained familiarity with using a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer for reaction monitoring. He also plans to include the results of his work as part of his senior research thesis, which will give him valuable experience writing for a scientific audience.
Additionally, he learned the importance of never giving up, even when experiments do not yield the desired results.