Chemistry's Patrick Melvin Receives NSF Grant to Fund Student Research
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Patrick Melvin has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that will help fund his lab’s research for the next three years, including providing funding for three undergraduate students to work in his lab each summer.
Melvin’s research focus is fluorination chemistry.
“If you look at the top pharmaceuticals being produced right now 35 percent of them have a fluorine atom in them,” explains Melvin for why his lab has such a strong focus on this unique element.
However, while fluorine has proven to be an incredibly useful component in drugs that treat everything from cancers to cholesterol, there are very few examples of fluorine in natural molecules.
“So, our lab essentially develops methods to add fluorine into different organic molecules. We’re not developing a drug but we’re providing a foundation for other chemists to be able to do that. Because without the synthetic strategies that we and others have developed, some of these pharmaceuticals couldn’t be made and then tested.”
The NSF grant comes on the heels of a two-year grant from the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation, which provided similar funding for Melvin’s lab.
Since Melvin started at Bryn Mawr in 2019, he’s had 15 undergraduates and two graduate students work in his lab, all of whom have been co-authors on at least one publication (two students have papers currently under review).
“These students are getting first-hand experience. They learn how to properly design an experiment and to perform certain techniques and those things are all important, but I think it’s the intangibles – perseverance, determination, dealing with failure – those things are going to serve them well whatever they choose to do beyond Bryn Mawr,” says Melvin.
Jenna Krussman ’24 started doing research in the Melvin Lab in the summer between her sophomore and junior years and is now looking into graduate school.
“I love how small and close-knit our group is,” says Krussman. “We all have our own projects that are kind of based around the same idea. I come in here every day and talk with Kirya about her project and what she's doing and she asks me about mine and if my reactions are working. It’s a very collaborative environment which I love.”
Lab mate Kirya Miller ’24 also describes the friendly lab environment as one of the best parts of researching at Bryn Mawr.
“Jenna and I are both thesising this year, we’ll always talk to each other about what we’re working on and what we think is going on with our reactions. So, it’s a very supportive environment and I really appreciate that.”
In addition to the camaraderie, Miller enjoys the challenge and reward that comes from chemistry research.
“My favorite part about doing research here is just that moment of discovery when something works. If I’m working on a reaction for a while and things aren’t going well, but then I get that result I’m looking for or I figure out something that’s going on and I get that aha moment, that keeps me going and I really love that.”