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Seven students present research at national ACS meeting

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – A recent trip to New Orleans was a crowning achievement for seven Monmouth College students, who attended the 255th American Chemical Society meeting March 18-22.

“The research presented by these juniors and seniors is a culmination of many years of engagement,” said Associate Professor of Chemistry Brad Sturgeon, who accompanied the students along with faculty colleague Michael Prinsell and Steve Distin, Monmouth’s chemistry lab manager. “Many of these students have been working on their research projects since they arrived on campus.”

The ACS holds two national meetings a year. The gatherings, which started in 1890, give students an opportunity to be at the forefront of academic research and to present their research in a professional setting. More than 16,000 people attended the conference, which had a theme of “Nexus of Food, Energy and Water.” About 8,200 papers and 5,000 posters were presented.

“ACS is the world’s largest scientific society with more than 150,000 members worldwide,” said Sturgeon, who also presented research on the direct detection of the xanthurenate radical, co-authored with Monmouth graduates Carley Folluo ’17 and Christopher Knutson ’16, as well as collaborators Ann Motten, Ronald P. Mason and Joan E. Roberts.

“Our mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people,” said Sturgeon of ACS. “Our vision is to improve people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.”

The Monmouth students who attended the conference were: Rachel Book ’19 of Byron, Ill.; Emily Currens ’19 of Rockford, Ill.; Broddie Davis ’18 of Rock Island, Ill.; Stephanie Saey ’18 of Galesburg, Ill.; Benjamin Stillwell ’18 of Johnsburg, Ill.; Ashley Winters ’18 of Galesburg, Ill.; and Laura Sanchez Zarco ’18 of Bensenville, Ill.

Along with co-author Zelinda Taylor ’18 of Springfield, Ill., Saey conducted her research under the guidance of Sturgeon.

“By attending symposiums and poster sessions, students gain insight into the various avenues of chemical research and are able to network with thousands of other ACS members,” said Saey. “I feel very fortunate and grateful to Monmouth College for the chance to attend this meeting. The highlight for me was being able to present my research about lignin monomers to Ph.D. students and postdoctoral professionals who are experts in the field of lignin-related chemistry.”

Davis worked with Prinsell on a project involving nitrogen-nitrogen bonds. Other co-authors were Austin Reeder ’17 and Amy Wollenburg ’18 of Aledo, Ill.

“It was an honor and privilege to attend the ACS meeting representing Monmouth College,” said Davis. “The meeting was a learning experience for me. It was a way to be in an environment of people who could you give advice and ideas for future research. It was also a place to view the newest innovative technology in the scientific community.”

Davis said he appreciated the opportunity to interact with the other ACS members. He said it was helpful as he prepares to enter graduate school in the fall.

“I was able to talk to people who are doing research similar to mine,” he said. “Then I was able to talk to current graduate students and hear their experiences.”

Three students who worked with faculty member Laura Moore also presented: Winters worked with monolignol compounds; Zarco’s project involved zein protein aggregates; and Currens’ project was titled “Chemistry of Baking: Analyzing Volatile Compounds in Basic Bread.”

The other two Monmouth students who presented at the conference – Book and Stillwell – worked with Sturgeon and professor Audra Sostarecz, respectively.

Titled “Revisiting the Acetaminophen Free Radical,” Stillwell’s project was co-authored by Ian Salveson ’17 and Jeffrey Ricketts-Hagan ’18 of Accra, Ghana. Book conducted research using ginkgo biloba flavanols.

The seven Monmouth students who made the trip to New Orleans received funding through the College’s Gebauer and Kieft Professional Travel Fund, made possible by two former chemistry faculty members, Pete Gebauer and Richard “Doc” Kieft. Registration, travel, accommodations and most of the costs of food were covered.

Sturgeon noted that many of the students also benefited from another of Kieft’s gifts – they spent time on Monmouth’s campus during the summer as a part of the Kieft Summer Research Program.