Barry McNamara  |   Published August 30, 2016

Folluo goes nuclear

Summer research experience leads senior to pursue nuclear chemistry
  • Summer research experience has led Carley Folluo ’17 to pursue nuclear chemistry.
Monmouth College student Carley Folluo made an important decision while participating in a prestigious summer research program at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y.

The senior from Davenport, Iowa, concluded that she will pursue graduate studies that combine her chemistry major and physics minor.

One of four Monmouth chemistry majors to study off campus during the summer, Folluo attended classes for credit at Brookhaven, offered by nearby Stony Brook University. She took four exams and conducted eight labs during the six-week program.

“Nuclear chemistry was my favorite part of inorganic chemistry,” she said. “After doing this program, I decided I wanted to change from getting my doctorate in inorganic chemistry to pursuing nuclear chemistry.”

A possible outcome for Folluo is the field of nuclear forensics.

“I think that would be really fascinating,” she said. “For example, the origin of a sample of uranium can be determined based off the fingerprint trace of elements from the geological region in which it was mined.”

During what will be a very busy final year at Monmouth, Folluo will apply to graduate schools, continue her current cataract research with Associate Professor of Chemistry Brad Sturgeon and start a nuclear physics project with Professor Chris Fasano.

Sturgeon was not surprised that Folluo was selected for what he called a “very competitive off-campus summer research experience.”

“Carley is academically strong and well-prepared for an opportunity like Brookhaven,” Sturgeon said. “She has been involved with SOFIA (Summer Opportunity for Intellectual Activity), chemistry research during the academic year and the Kieft summer research program.”

Folluo’s cataract research has involved the use of gel electrophoresis, which determines the protein content of the eye lens. It also involves working with free radicals, which has applications in medical research.

“Free radicals have a lone electron, and a lot of the chemistry will take place on the part of the molecule where it is found,” she said. “The free radical reacts with the eye lens protein, and that’s the cause of cataracts proposed in our project.”

At Brookhaven, Folluo worked with radio isotopes, isolating the daughter isotope from the parent, which can also be used for medical research. Among the new research tools she learned were positron emission tomography scanning, an imaging test that allows physicians to check for diseases, and new uses of column chromatography, a method used to purify individual chemical compounds from mixtures of compounds.
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