My step signature project involved undergraduate research at the Fuchs lab in the biological sciences library. I synthesized and purified the experimental antibiotic 5- chlorothiophene-2- sulfonyl chloride which used to fight the campylobacter, a common chicken food borne illness. This involved running a synthesis reaction followed by extraction and purification. I also ran my finished compound through a proton NMR to observe its properties and to in fact make sure I had what I thought I did.
I think the person I am today and at the beginning of the semester are 2 entirely different people. I think I realized more about myself than anything else. At the start of my project I was not sure how I would like the lab work. However, as I started my project and worked with my mentors my view changed a little bit. I started to enjoy some of the lab techniques and the work seemed less tedious and more enjoyable, granted I enjoyed some parts more than others. For example, synthesis and extraction were pretty straight forward and fun, but column chromatography purification was a huge pain in the butt.
Moving forward, I do think my work in the future will involve chemistry and lab work. I think it may however be in a different context. As opposed to synthesizing new and novel antibiotics, I would like to use extraction to isolate therapeutic compounds from nature. I want to take what I’ve learned and apply it in a holistic/ herbalist sense to help the world around me. I also will take this information and use it in my organic chemistry labs because many of the techniques are very similar and used often in todays day in age. It will give me an edge, having seen the techniques beforehand.
There were a few parts of this project that were transformational. Of course, the chemistry knowledge in itself was valuable and changed my perspective. Learning the process of synthesis, extraction and column chromatography showed me that it is possible to create and separate compounds through manipulating the properties of nature. I also learned that I like and enjoy some of the work. I want to incorporate elements from this lab into my future career even though I’m not quite sure what it will be.
The atmosphere I made were also very important to my transformation. I learned a lot from Dr. Fuchs and it was really cool to be part of his lab group. I got to go to seminars and see people from Pfizer and other prominent companies give presentations. This and being part of the lab in general gave me a higher feeling of belonging and motivated me to work harder in school. I kept thinking to myself that I because I was now part of this amazing lab that I had to push myself to be better in school and everything else I did. The standards there were high and this caused me to raise my own as well.
I think the most valuable lesson I learned and the one that had the biggest impact on me came from one of the grad students in his lab. He was kind of my mentor, helping me when I needed help and giving me advice. Whenever I came to him with these questions or if I was just unsure if whether I screwed he would tell me not to worry. He would then proceed to explain how most of the time your probably not going to get something right the first time, that failure is a part of success. The standards at the lab were high but I could see that even a really smart graduate student such as himself was human. This was very humbling and made this research more of a life lesson than just a semester project.