Students conduct vital chemistry research

Michael Ford
Arts & Entertainment Editor   

   Two research projects currently being conducted by students at the University of Arkansas at Monticello could inhibit the spread of cancer cells and create flexible semiconductors that could revolutionize electronics.

Photo by Michael Ford
Taking a break — Dr. Rose McConnell, Carol Trana, Holly Strickland, Leonard Polk, Dr. Walt Godwin, Matthew McConnell, Lauren Young, Ashley Young and Kelley Sayyar take time to pose for a group shot.

   The first project, funded by a three-year grant for $114,930 from the National Cancer Institute, started March 1 and serves as an expansion of previous NCI work.

   “In this project we design, synthesize and test new compounds to serve as protease inhibitors,” said Dr. Rose McConnell, professor of chemistry. “These compounds are designed to stop protease enzymes that are involved in the metastasis of cancer throughout the body.”

   The students focus on stopping enzymes that cause the spread of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer and pancreatic cancers.

   The three UAM students conducting this research include Adam Green, Holly Strickland and Carol Trana. The research takes place in Lab C-2 of the Science Center.

   "I think the research is great, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of it," Carol Trana said. "I am just at the initial stages of the project right now, and there will be a lot more to it than just the beginning part I have been working on, but you have to be very patient and very persistent to do this."

   The second project, funded by a three-year grant for $180,000 from the National Science Foundation and by two smaller NASA-Arkansas Space Grant Consortium undergraduate student grants, involves the production of new polymeric materials for use as flexible semiconductors.

   “Traditional silicon-based semiconductors are rigid and inflexible,” McConnell said. “Therefore, electronic devices that use the semiconductors must be rigid and inflexible. The new polymeric semiconductors would allow for electronics to be flexible.”

   McConnell said flexible semiconductors could result in a TV screen or computer monitor that could be rolled up like a poster.

   “They could allow the development of electro-textiles,” McConnell said. “Imagine a T-shirt that plays your favorite music video or a military uniform with GPS locating and/or communications transceiver electronics built into the fabric of the uniform.”

   UAM students conducting the research include Matthew McConnell, Leonard Polk, Ashley Young and Lauren Young.

   “The main purpose of this research effort is to train undergraduate students in research skills not normally available in the classroom setting,” McConnell said. “The students not only conduct the research, but they also present the research data at state and national meetings.”

   Research manager Kelley Sayyar said she commends McConnell for taking on such an arduous task of providing research experiences in the field of chemistry at the undergraduate level.

   "I feel honored to work these exceptional students and to be a part of such important research endeavors," Sayyar said.

   Last March, the students presented their research at the National American Chemical Society meeting in Anaheim, Calif., as well as at several meetings in Arkansas. This year they plan to present research data in San Diego.

   McConnell said these students represent some of UAM's best and brightest.

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