Assistant Professor of Chemistry Courtney Meyet (left), Haley Banovetz ’16 (middle), and Kate Wierenga ’16 (right). Banovetz and Wierenga were students in Meyet’s Advanced Organic Synthesis class.
Courtney Meyet | Courtesy

At one of the largest scientific conferences of the year, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Courtney Meyet presented research carried out by her Advanced Organic Synthesis class and spoke about the unique format of the class at the 254th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

Her presentations were two of nearly 9,400 presentations given during the conference, which was held in Washington, D.C., Aug. 20-24, according to the American Chemical Society.

The research focused on the process of synthesizing two types of molecules: allenes, which can be a useful tool for building other chemical compounds, and propargylamine, which can have pharmaceutical applications. The project, carried out in spring 2016, examined the different conditions for a set of reactions used to synthesize propargylamine and allenes in order to find ways to exclusively synthesize one compound or the other, rather than make a mixture of the two.

In a series of presentations about chemical education, Meyet also spoke about the class format, which sought to simulate graduate-level research in an undergraduate setting, she said. The class consisted of 13 Hillsdale students, all but one of whom have since graduated and gone on to graduate school or a career in chemistry.

“When I entered grad school, I felt prepared, but I noticed other students were not,” Meyet said. “I wanted my own students to have the proper preparation.”

In the class, each student was responsible for a portion of the chemistry and looked at variables such as  temperature, the concentration of different compounds used in the reaction, and which compounds produced the largest amount of the desired end product. The students also participated in weekly brainstorming meetings, gave presentations, and designed and wrote about their portion of the project.

Meyet said these students’ efforts in the class had a trickle-down effect for other students in the department, and helped improve the presentations in the chemistry department’s weekly research seminar, which were similar to the presentations they gave during the Advanced Organic Synthesis class.

“They were able to lift up the discussions in our seminar,” Meyet said. “Other students, even those not in the class, had even gotten into that culture of participation in the chemistry.”

Meyet said she is in the process of writing a paper about the research, and plans to submit it for publication in a scientific journal once it is complete.

She also said the ACS meeting allowed discussions of possible mechanisms responsible for the chemistry she presented on.

Haley Banovetz ’16 took the class in her final semester at Hillsdale before attending graduate school to study organic chemistry and said the class helped prepare her for the presentations and work she does as a part of her current research project.

“The structure allowed us to really take control of the project as a class,” Banovetz said. “I think having that only furthered my interest in going to grad school. The presentations you give in her class are very similar to those you have to give in grad school.”