Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

A Lafayette student with a keen interest in organic chemistry got a chance to learn the ropes of lab work this summer through research projects on organic reactions and sea sponges.

Susan Heinsohn ’03 (Mt. Bethel, Pa.), a chemistry major, worked with William H. Miles, associate professor of chemistry, as an EXCEL Scholar. In Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL program, students assist faculty members with research while earning a stipend.

“I learned a lot of chemistry, as well as how to use common laboratory equipment that I will probably run into in the future working at a chemical company or doing anything organic-chemistry related,” says Heinsohn. “It also helped me gain experience in hands-on lab work, which helps for future internships or jobs.”

The first project, a continuation of previous students’ work, involved organic reactions in which she produced ethers that had never been made from alcohols.

“This basically involved performing the reaction, monitoring it by TLC plates, and then working up the product, or getting rid of the solvent to obtain pure product,” the student says.

“The product obtained would sometimes contain more than one compound. The compounds would then get separated by something called Flash Column Chromatography for a final weight and analysis. The method of analyzing the product was called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. This would provide a printout of peaks, from which we would be able to decipher what was in our sample.”

Miles, who calls Heinsohn “conscientious” and “a good worker,” says she has written the experiment part of the paper, bringing it up to publication standards.

In the second project, the student attempted to make part of a material found in sea sponges called Bryostatin, which scientists believe may fight cancer. Because sponges contain only small amounts of Bryostatin, scientists are trying to make it synthetically.

“We focused on making the part called the C ring,” Heinsohn says. “You have to figure out a series of reactions by reading published articles that you think will get you to the final product desired from compounds already obtained in the lab or cheap materials, and test out the reactions.

“Sometimes slight changes in amounts or reagents need to be made in order to obtain a good yield. The idea is to use materials that are not outrageously expensive and synthesis reactions that have as few steps as possible and are fairly easy to perform.”

Heinsohn, who has finished her work, describes the summer as “very productive,” although the second project ran into complications.

“But it taught me that it is not always as easy as it sounds to run reactions and have them all run smoothly and obtain exactly what you want,” she says. “Sometimes you will obtain more than one compound from a reaction, which takes away from the yield of the desired reaction. Or sometimes, the reaction you thought would work may simply not work at all.”

A graduate of Bangor High School, Heinsohn is involved in the concert choir, concert band, Lafayette Christian Fellowship, Horseback Riding Club, and intramural tennis.

Categorized in: Academic News