Four chemistry students named Bouman Scholars

Pictured above are chemistry students Scott Alvarado, Cori Harris, Bree Richey and Katherine Bennett who were named Bouman Scholars. They each received a scholarship for their poster presentations of their research. Photo courtesy of professor Michael Shaw.

Four chemistry students received the SIUE Thomas D. Bouman Memorial Research Scholar Awards after presenting posters on their research.

Graduate students Bree Richey and Katherine Bennett and seniors Cori Harris and Scott Alvarado presented their research during the Bouman Research Symposium last month.

The posters, according to Chemistry Department Chair Michael Shaw, were judged by “a group of alumni and friends of the department, many of whom have been longtime supporters” of the Bouman Memorial Research Scholarship Fund.

The fund is in memory and honor of Bouman, professor of physical chemistry at SIUE from 1965-1992. Each of the awardees received a $1,000 scholarship.

Richey presented research that involved the use of a multi-component coupling reaction, which she said is “an efficient synthetic route to complex molecules that resemble naturally occurring compounds.”

“This type of synthesis is therefore attractive to the pharmaceutical field. In my time as a graduate student, I studied an unusual chemical occurrence involving this reaction,” Richey said.

The “applicability and challenge” of her research, according to Richey, has been rewarding and being selected was “a true honor.”

She works with chemistry professor Sarah Luesse, whose mentorship Richey said has been “nothing short of an absolute pleasure.”

“My adviser and I are very like-minded and have an excellent rapport…” Richey said. “I couldn’t say enough positive things about what her advisement has meant to me. Her knowledge knows no bounds, and I have enjoyed tapping into it immensely.”

Harris said in her research she was trying to find a quicker way to form triazole, a component of antifungals that could be used in the medical field.

Winning a Bouman scholarship, according to Harris, was a “huge honor” and is “a pretty big deal at SIUE.”

“I was pretty surprised. There were a lot of people who had really great posters and represented their research really well,” Harris said.

Harris said her mentor Luesse has been great and “really promotes student learning and advancement.”

“She is someone I could look up to and someone who is very knowledgeable about chemistry,” Harris said.

Bennett presented research where she looked at a protein and its inhibitor, a three-ring sugar–trisaccharide.

“We’re hypothesizing that the three-ring sugar can keep [the protein] from forming amyloids,” Bennett said. “There are ways to stabilize the protein before it becomes amyloid form associated with Alzheimer’s, which is caused by a different type of amyloid. But we could propose a model that is similar the Alzheimer’s amyloid model.”

The three-ring sugar, according to Bennett is “really expensive” so they are learning how to purify it themselves and so they can “then move forward with the bigger project without that expense.”

Bennett said she was very surprised and honored she won a Bouman award which she called a “great tradition.”

According to Bennett, she enjoyed working with her mentor, professor Chin-Chuan Wei, who “helps me think about things outside the box.”

Alvarado said his research consisted of trying to get a better understanding of how the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase metabolizes alcohol.

“We can come up with new drugs that could mimic the enzyme for people that do not have the enzyme in their bodies [to metabolize alcohol],” Alvarado said.

Winning the award gave Alvarado “good feeling,” but he said the focus should not be on winning the award.

“It should be directed toward the research and the results will come on their own,” Alvarado said. “I’ve been researching this for two years. I definitely put a lot of time into it.”

Chemistry professor Yun Lu served as Alvarado’s mentor. Lu, according to Alvarado, is a great mentor and a leader who “definitely sets a really good atmosphere in the lab.”

“He is really good with the grad students and a lot of my mentorship was through the graduate students, too. I would not be able to present the research without them helping me prepare for it,” Alvarado said. “I feel like the graduate students model after him, and I think there’s a lot great things going on in Dr. Lu’s group-a few grad students and undergraduate students.”

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