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.”