Katherine Mallea ’20: Chemistry Research, Stonehill College

Name: Katherine Mallea
Class Year: 2020
Major: Biology
Minor: Chemistry
Hometown: Brockton, Mass.

Internship Organization: Stonehill College, Department of Chemistry (under Professor Louis Liotta)
Job Title: Bio-Organic Research
Location: Stonehill College (North Easton, Mass.)

What’s happening at your internship?

I am learning how to organically synthesize/create compounds of interest. Each day I am tasked with continuing the synthesis, in that I am purifying, extracting, reacting, etc., my compound from commercially available sugars in hopes of obtaining pure novel (either never been synthesized or never been documented) sugar analogues. In that with each new synthesis I begin, I am continually documenting observations of the reaction, while using my data to modify the reaction in a way that produces either a purer product, or a product with a better yield, than in a previous written producer of the reaction. Each day differs from the previous and is ever changing.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I had been wanting to work in a laboratory as a researching student, whether that be in biology or in chemistry. But, during the middle of my first semester of organic chemistry, I was falling in love with the subject. While in lab, I felt as though I was not truly able to enjoy the synthesis process as much, as my main goal in the course was to do well, in juncture with my group. I felt comfortable in the lab setting as I had volunteered in an organic chemistry lab one summer during high school. The organic chemistry labs were either at capacity or had chemistry majors in queue (as I am only a minor). Thus, I used one of the connections I had made previously and with the help of LILAC I was able to apply to my first internship!

Was there anything special about how you found this internship?

Yes! As I mentioned previously I was given the amazing opportunity to volunteer with the ACS program project SEED a summer in high school! Although as a high school student who had never taken an organic chemistry I was not able to truly grasp the work that I was doing. But then, as I was using the laboratory equipment during the lab course of the organic chemistry course, I recalled first learning how to use the machinery years prior, and took a chance by emailing the professor of the lab I was able to volunteer in.

Can you talk about the skills you are learning and why they are important to you?

Having the opportunity to work in a research laboratory, I will be able to solidify my understanding and knowledge of the mechanisms I had studied in class. I will be able to go beyond the classroom and lab, in that I will be able to run the machinery and lab tools independently, as well as work independently (although the professor and lab students are present), which allows me work on problem solving, as organic synthesis is truly a puzzle. Where the mechanisms are the puzzle pieces, and the solutes and solvents are the images on each piece, that guide you to piecing everything together. But also, I am gaining experience in how to operate in a lab, which will be a stepping stone for many other opportunities and internships in the near future.

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