Summer at BMC

Sun-soaked postcards from Bryn Mawr College

Alicia Makepeace ’14: A Summer of Chemistry

alicia makepeaceWhen summer is mentioned, images of beaches, cold drinks and friends commonly fill one’s head. So what would motivate working eight-hour workdays, five days a week for ten weeks during the summer months? For me, the rationale is this: summer science research with the chemistry department. I am currently continuing my research from the school year during this summer; however, I am now surrounded all day long by amazing labmates (Chloe Baumann, Janielle Vidal and Summer Baker Dockrey), my research mentor (Jason Schmink) and more extensive research.

During the past school year, my research focused on the synthesis of starting material, arylacylsilanes with varied substituents on the silane. Although organic synthesis is interesting and offers many learning opportunities as well as occasions to exercise creativity, I am excited to put my starting material to good use. This summer, my research will be focused on the cross-coupling via palladium catalysis of arylacylsilanes (my starting material) with bromobenzene to form benzophenones (Rxn 1). In fewer scientific terms, a small amount of palladium will be used, in the presence of water, to bring two compounds together and make new carbon-carbon bonds. An interesting complication arises with the presence of water: water is necessary for the palladium catalysis, but it also aids in an unwanted competitive reaction where the arylacylsilane is converted back to benzaldehyde (Rxn 2). It is my goal to monitor the desired and competitive reactions using kinetic studies to determine which arylacylsilane affords the greatest conversion to product with the least conversion to benzaldehyde.

alicia makepeace chemistry graphic

By doing summer research, I am able to spend hours thinking of nothing other than chemistry, which is exciting; however, the benefits do not end there. This uninterrupted work also presents an opportunity to begin collecting data and writing for my senior thesis. Organic chemistry incorporating the use of metals describes my academic interests. Therefore, this research has helped expand my content knowledge, encourage me to do an organometallic independent study, and helped narrow my search for potential graduate schools.


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