Monday, July 03, 2006

Dreaming of molecules...

Hi guys!

I just finished my first week at my summer job (at Drexel), which just so happens to be my first paying job. It's called the Maryanoff Summer Chemistry Research Program and I get a stipend. Although I have to commute to Philly from home everyday, I'm really excited that I got accepted and that I actually have something meaningful to do this summer.

Basically, I work in an organic chemistry lab under a professor who is trying to find, synthesize, and test new anti-malarial compounds. There are a few other people who also work in the lab, but the two other main people who I work with everyday (and I guess you could say my mentors/supervisors) are a grad student and an undergrad on co-op. Since I've never taken organic chem before, these two guys have been pretty patient in teaching me the basics about the different reactions, specialized organic chemistry equipment, and procedures. Since I really don't know much about organic chemistry, I ask them at least a dozen questions each day, and they don't seem to mind. Pretty much all of our work/results are posted online on Blogger and Wikispaces. Our professor is really big on technology and using the internet to share resources.

We have a list of compounds that potentially could inhibit the enzyme Enoyl Reductase, which is essential in the synthesis of the cell wall of the parasite which causes Malaria. We want to synthesize these compounds in the hopes that one of them could be a cheap new anti-malaria drug. These compounds are structurally similar in that each one is made up of 3 side groups: an amino acid, an amine, and an aldehyde. For my first week, I spent a lot of time learning how to break up the compounds into their 3 components, naming/drawing them, and then finally researching for commercial sources or ways to synthesize each component (Molecules Blog). After my first day, I actually dreamed about molecules and synthesizing compounds. A little disturbing.

At the moment, the co-op student and I are trying to make an aldehyde that is common in many of the compounds on the list. We are doing this by converting adrenaline to the catechol aldehyde using acid catalysis. I have my results posted online here if you want to see what I'm doing, or you can go to the Experiments Blog to find out about previous experiments.

We haven't actually synthesized a pure sample of one of our target compounds, but we found a reaction (called Ugi synthesis) that would allow us to combine the three groups together. We're still working on perfecting the technique. Hopefully, we'll be able to produce a pure sample before the end of the summer so that testing in vitro on red blood cells can be done.

Well, that's an update on my life. Sorry if it was long and boring. Hope you guys are all having a great summer!