It is not without regret that I write this last post. True, many of my readers probably found themselves lost in translation, a testament to the fact that I can’t quite lose the chemistry jargon. Explaining physical chemistry demands a lot from a tyro researcher. This learning experience is healthy, I’m sure—the perfect practice for grad school interviews and poster presentations. But what inspired me and I will miss most about this summer was the lab environment. Students and professors worked beside one another. Everybody sported interest in other lab groups’ projects and enjoyed discussing research as much as the best liquid nitrogen ice cream flavors or that week’s upcoming Friday lunch outing. I found this constant conversation refreshing. Within my own lab, we all asked about each others’ projects and methods to the point that we could substitute for them one day if they needed the help. Working in the lab was thoroughly enjoyable and I’d be lucky to recreate the experience in future research.
Looking back, I realize my abstract and blog posts do not quite match up. It turns out that the molecules I studied had all been synthesized by or during this summer. With that done, I was ready to begin the physical studies. Fluorescence assays and I got uncomfortably close, let’s just say, for the first month or so of my research. I found that the most effective probe of solvent acidity had a t-butyl group on the carbonyl end and no further enhancements at the amino site. This probe’s range was the largest by at best a factor of 3/2 relative to the next best probe of solvent acidity—the same molecule except for the amino group restricted to a planar conformation within a ring. This result makes sense based on our original hypothesis that twisted compounds would respond best to changes in solvent acidity.
Recent research consisted of working an onslaught of new and modified synthetic organic procedures. My goal in this side project was to make a fluorescent probe in order to determine the solvent acidity of isopropanol-water mixtures in future experiments. Few laboratories have worked with this class of compounds, (1,2,4,5-tetrazines,) in the past 150 years; in fact, only 200 separate articles seem to document their use. Even fewer articles document their synthesis, many of which use more brute methods because their main goal is photophysical study rather than synthesis. With so little to go on, my work here moved slowly. I tried a variety of reactions: I used different precursor compounds to make one reagent, increased the pressure and reaction time, and varied the compound ratios. As of now, my best bet seems to be the synthesis of an ester as one relatively safe and high-yield reactant. From here, the synthetic route includes only reactions documented in introductory orgo books, a promising sign.
I look forward to mentoring new students in our lab as they scramble about setting up these reactions. My place lies back at the fluorimeter. Having identified the most suitable probes and establishing that their fluorescent properties do in fact correlate positively to increasingly protic solvent mixtures, I am ready to move on and test the probes on an actual molecule: cyclodextrin. This project will compose my honors thesis. It is time to put those painful exams on kinetics back in action. I cross my fingers that these results have enough meat to publish.
Thanks to anyone who’s followed me this far. Best of luck to you in your own research and in pursuit of any interest the world may inspire in you. Peace.