Research grant provides unique learning opportunity for SIUE chemistry students

The SIUE chemistry department received approval for a $70,000 grant from the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund (ACS-PRF) for a research project led by chemistry Associate professor, Yun Lu.

The American Chemical Society awarded a $70,000 grant to fund a research project led SIUE associate chemistry professor Yun Lu.

The project, titled “Structural Effects on the Primary Isotope Dependence of Secondary Kinetic Isotope Effects in Hydride Transfer Reactions in Solution,” focuses on the study of the solution H-transfer reactions using the kinetic isotope effect (KIE) method, Dr. Lu said. This method has been extensively used to study the enzyme catalyzed H-transfer reactions. The comparative study of the solution reactions and the enzyme reactions using the same method will provide insight into the origins of the catalytic power of enzymes.

Funding for the research project began on Jan. 1 and runs through Aug. 31, 2018.  Lu credits the Competitive Applications Resubmission Incentive (CARI) award, one of SIUE’s internal funding programs, in helping to secure the ACS-PRF grant. CARI provides additional funding for the resubmission of competitive proposals of research with potential to garner external funding.

Lu said the project provides a unique opportunity for students participating in the study. Currently there are three students from SIUE’s chemistry graduate program (Jonathan Lefton, Xiaojun Li and Shabnam Jafari) and two students from the undergraduate program (seniors Michael Khoury and Gregory Scarborough,) working on the project.

Lu stated “This project involves synthesis of the organic compounds and their isotope-labeled analogues, and determination and comparison of the rates of their chemical reactions in solution.”

He added that students in the project will learn organic synthesis, which is a branch of chemical synthesis that is focused on the construction of organic compounds by organic reactions. Students will also learn spectroscopic kinetic determination (the determination of the rates of the chemical reactions using the spectroscopy method), computational chemistry, enzyme chemistry, lab safety procedures and use of the kinetic data to analyze the reaction mechanisms.

“These experiences consolidate the knowledge that students learned from their lectures and labs, and provide hands-on skills for their future studies and work,” Lu said. “With these experiences, students are prepared to enter Ph.D. programs, to become teachers in local schools and problem-solvers for local chemical companies.”

This marks the second externally-funded American Chemical Society’s PRF grant Lu has received during his time at SIUE. Eight papers on these projects headed by Lu have been published in major chemistry journals, including Chemical Communications and the Journal of Organic Chemistry.  Lu has delivered talks on his current research at various universities and academic conferences including the Gordon Research Conference. He has collaborated with fellow SIUE chemistry professor James Eilers and University of Iowa chemistry professor Amnon Kohen on projects relating to the study of enzyme-catalyzed reaction mechanisms.  Dr. Eilers is a computational chemist and also the co-principal investigator of the PRF project.


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