As four budding scientists stepped into Dr. Funk’s lab on May 17th, they had no idea how much fun they would have, how many stupid mistakes they would make, how fine-tuned their chemistry skills would become, and how many discoveries they would make. While most labs have a single project that they focus on, we decided to go big or go home. We are working on two projects. Dan and Kathryn are on one project and Rowan and Kevin are on the other. Our goal is to give you all a little glimpse at each project and open your eyes to the wonderful world of chemistry! But first… here is the team:
My name is Kathryn Fodale, and I am a rising junior at Gettysburg College. I will graduate in 2016 with a BS in Chemistry. I love the idea of blowing things up and working with toxic materials so the idea of spending my summer in a lab wearing a lab coat, goggles, and gloves is right up my alley!
My name is Daniel Ruff. I’m a rising senior working with Professor Funk this summer! I will soon be a bachelor of science in Chemistry and I am planning on going to graduate school after my time in Gettysburg. I thoroughly enjoy doing research alongside my peers as well as what I do in the lab.
My name is Rowan Meador and I am a rising junior at Gettysburg College. I am working with Dr. Funk over the summer and having a blast. I love spending the day in the lab with my fancy, official lab coat and synthesizing compounds. It honesty does not feel like work and the time flies by. Doing research this summer with friends from the college was the best way to spend my time.
Hi! My name is Kevin Mrugalski and I am working with Dr. Timothy Funk researching protein purification. I am a rising senior and working towards a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I plan on going to gradate school for synthetic organic chemistry after I graduate. I really enjoy working on my research and I can’t believe that I’m almost done for the summer!
Iron Catalyst Project (Dan and Kathryn)
Catalysts play an important role in many reactions. Without a catalyst, a reaction may run for more time, have a lower yield, and produce more waste. While this may be OK on a small scale, imagine it on a large scale—chemical companies would make and throw away tons of waste. Catalysts can come to the rescue! A catalyst lowers the activation energy, making the reactions take less time to run to completion, and decreases the waste produced because a catalyst is not consumed in a reaction. Currently, catalysts are used in many reactions including those involving the synthesis of pharmaceutical compounds.
It is common to find catalysts containing transition metals such as ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, and other platinum-group metals. While they often work well, there are toxicity concerns associated with these metals. Additionally, they have low natural abundances and are expensive. Therefore, recent efforts have been focused on developing iron-based catalysts due to iron’s high natural abundance and low toxicity. We are developing iron-based catalysts for reduction and oxidation reactions that have reactivities similar to catalysts based on platinum-group metals. We are synthesizing numerous catalysts and testing them in various reactions to see how the structure of the catalyst impacts its reactivity.
We set up multiple reactions each day. The picture to the left shows three of the same reactions under nitrogen since the chemicals are sensitive and will decompose when exposed to oxygen. We do three reactions for each test in order to make sure all data collected is reliable.
At this point, we have finished almost all of the various reactions with each of the catalysts we have. Now we are focusing on making new compounds to test as well as interpreting the massive amounts of data we have acquired. We’ve accomplished a lot in the last few weeks and we are going to have a busy couple of weeks ahead of us.
Synthesis of a Photo-cleavable Linker for Protein Purification (Kevin and Rowan)
Our project, which is part of a collaboration with a Basic Metabolic Research group, involves creating an organic molecule linked to a bead that will react with a post-translational modification called GlcNAc on two proteins. These proteins will “stick” to the bead linker, allowing for other molecules to be washed away. The bead contains two main parts: a strained alkyne, which will react with GlcNAc, and a photo-cleavable group that will allow the separation of the protein from the bead after the protein has been isolated. After the proteins have been isolated, they will be characterized by mass spectrometry to determine which amino acids are bound to GlcNAc.
Kevin is synthesizing photo-cleavable groups that will link an alkyne to a bead, and Rowan is currently focusing on synthesizing the strained alkyne, which will react with GlcNAc. In the future, both of these molecules will be joined together to form the bead linker.
Summer life on Campus
Gettysburg is pretty awesome during the summer. We get to spend all day in the lab and then not have any homework. Consequently, we can do all the fun things we can’t do during the school year. One thing we have all loved doing is getting 50 cent wings on Wednesday nights. There have also been farmer’s markets, a carnival, and a music festival. Even though there are a lot of tourists, the battlefield is so spectacular for an early morning run.
By: Rowan Meador, Kevin Mrugalski, Daniel Ruff, and Kathryn Fodale