St. Olaf News
Student wins fellowship for organic chemistry research
June 12, 2013
St. Olaf College student Lydia Wolfe ’14 will use a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) from the American Chemical Society to develop a more efficient method of converting chemical compounds into usable forms for everyday products.
As a part of an ongoing research project, Wolfe will work with St. Olaf Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dipannita Kalyani and student Will Wertjes ‘15 to examine the best way to use nickel, a cheap transition metal, as a catalyst to convert naturally occurring carbon-hydrogen compounds to carbon-carbon compounds. These carbon-carbon bonds are prevalent in compounds that are used to make everyday materials such as pharmaceuticals and fuel.
“I took a course in organometallic chemistry my sophomore year with Professor Kalyani, and I learned there are so many different applications of chemistry in the real world — I had never really realized that before,” says Wolfe, a chemistry and Spanish major.
Wolfe’s grant is awarded under the American Chemical Society’s Division of Organic Chemistry. Her SURF grant is sponsored by Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., a biopharmaceutical company.
The SURF Program provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to carry out independent research with a faculty mentor at their college or university. The program also provides financial support for Wolfe to visit Pfizer Inc. in the fall, where she will attend a scientific seminar and present her work alongside other SURF students.
Wolfe, who is planning to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry, heard about the SURF program last fall during her earlier work in Kalyani’s lab. Kalyani assisted her with its lengthy application process.
“Working in a lab was really fun,” says Wolfe. “It was something I wanted to continue to do.”