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Wesley College Students' Undergraduate Research in Chemistry Published


Two Wesley College students will have their undergraduate research in chemistry published. Jaci Knapp (B.S. Biology, 2011) and Gabriel Fernandez-Bueno (B.S. Biological Chemistry, Honors program) completed an INBRE/EPSCoR –supported organic chemistry research project under the direction of Dr. Malcolm D’Souza, professor of chemistry at Wesley. This work is now published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Molecular Sciences (http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/13/1/665/).

Knapp and Fernandez-Bueno determined the reaction rate of a compound used as a precursor in the synthesis of agricultural and pharmaceutical products in a variety of aqueous solutions. D'Souza then used this information to determine the mechanism of reaction. Pharmaceutical and agrochemical companies can use that information to produce drugs, fertilizers, and pesticides that are cheaper and cleaner to make.

Fernandez-Bueno received an Undergraduate Tuition Scholarship from the NASA/Delaware Space Grant Program. Successful applicants study science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM), have a grade-point average of at least 3.5, and agree to conduct undergraduate STEM research. “The scholarship definitely made a difference in me being able to afford Wesley,” says Fernandez-Bueno.
One highlight of his Wesley experience is his undergraduate research work. “Doing research and publishing your work is something graduate programs love to see,” he says. "It gives you credibility in the science world.”

“The research has definitely helped me focus more on my intended career plan,” Fernandez-Bueno continues. He wants to study neuroscience after he graduates, probably in 2014, but he is still undecided about whether to pursue a Ph.D. or an M.D. Either way, he expects to incorporate research work. “Research is helping me come closer to that decision to choose my final career path,” he says.

Likewise, Knapp is finding her undergraduate research experience at Wesley a big help in applying to dental schools. “When I interviewed recently at the University of Maryland Dental School,” Knapp says, “the interviewers concentrated heavily on my research. They mentioned the publication and seemed impressed with the work I had done. UM Dental conducts a lot a scientific research, so my background was appealing to them. The interviewers even asked if I would be interested in conducting research for the school if I were to be accepted.”

“I transferred to Wesley from James Madison University in my sophomore year,” Knapp continues. “At such a large university, I was just a number and probably would not have had the same opportunities that I was offered at Wesley. Conducting undergraduate research was a great experience and has positively influenced my decision to continue conducting research throughout dental school and my career.”

This research was supported by the Delaware INBRE grant from the National Center for Research Resources, a component of the National Institutes of Health; a National Science Foundation (NSF) Delaware EPSCoR grant; an NSF ARI-R2 grant; and the State of Delaware. The DE-INBRE and DE-EPSCoR grants were obtained through the leadership of the University of Delaware.