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    Chemistry majors participate in real-world research experiences as Amgen Scholars

Four Department of Chemistry undergraduate majors—Medinat Akindele, James Cox, Annika Page, and Levi Palmer—were Amgen Scholars in the summer of 2018. The Amgen Scholars program allows undergraduates to participate in cutting-edge research opportunities at world-class institutions. (See story on James Cox).

Medinat Akindele, Amgen scholar
Medinat Akindele

Medinat Akindele spent her summer at Stanford University. Combining her experience in organic synthesis and the biochemistry of plants and enzymes, her project focused on “Evaluating thermal adaptation in psychrophilic, mesophilic and thermophilic variants of the enzyme ketosteroid isomerase.”

“I learned essential skills to be a good scientist, and not just producing tons of data,” said Medinat. “I valued all aspects of the scientific process, from collecting data to reading papers and communicating my science through poster and oral presentations.”

Medinat is a senior chemistry major. After graduating in the spring of 2019, she plans to spend a year working in industry before pursuing a doctorate in environmental engineering.

Annika Page, Amgen scholar
Annika Page

Annika Page is a senior studying chemistry and political science, and conducting research in Professor Thomas Hoye’s laboratory. She is interested in synthetic organic chemistry, especially reaction discovery and methods as well as synthetic chemical biology. Annika enjoys learning how chemical processes work, particularly, mechanistic studies that combine experimental results with computational evidence for the pathway that a reaction follows. She is also interested in applying synthetic organic chemistry to biological molecules because of the many important implications for understanding how those molecules function in the body as well as how to better design therapeutics to treat diseases.

As an Amgen Scholar, Annika worked with Professor Dean Toste at the University of California, Berkeley, investigating new modes of bioconjugation reactions. Specifically, she worked to optimize a small molecule probe to be reactive and selective with nucleophilic amino acid residues, and researched what parameters affected the selectivity of the reaction toward histidine.

Annika hopes to attend graduate school for chemistry to work on organic methods or chemical biology. She is interested in many different career paths, including medicinal chemistry, intellectual property law, becoming a professor at an undergraduate institution, or combining her chemistry and political science interests to work in science policy at the federal level.

In the Department of Chemistry, Annika was a Heisig/Gleysteen research fellow in 2017, and received the 2018 Wayland E. Noland Award for Academic Excellence in Chemistry, and 2017 Robert C. Brasted Memorial Fellowship.

Levi Palmer, Amgen scholar
Levi Palmer

Levi Palmer is a junior majoring in chemistry with a minor in physics. His research adviser is Professor Renee Frontiera.

“Professor Frontiera welcomed me into her lab where I fell in love with physical chemistry and Raman spectroscopy, and I have been excited about various applications of spectroscopy ever since,” said Levi. “I’m hoping to apply knowledge of complex spectroscopic techniques to new, exciting science to discover properties of materials and interfaces,” he said.

This past summer, Levi was an Amgen Scholar at the California Institute of Technology, working with Professor Harry Atwater. The title of his project was: "Optimization of Nanoporous Gold Antennas for In-Situ Carbon Dioxide Reduction Intermediate Detection.” The bulk of the work entailed fabricating and characterizing mid-IR resonant antennas from nanoporous gold. This was accomplished with several methods including electron-beam lithography and evaporation, ellipsometry, and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy. The antennas are designed to enhance molecular intermediates during carbon dioxide reduction. 

Levi said that he learned a lot from this experience. “I realized how much time it takes to start a new project. There is a lot of learning involved, especially for an undergraduate, which slows things down significantly. However, I learned that if you want something done, the best way to get it accomplished is to do it and not wait.”

Levi plans to pursue a doctorate in chemistry and, hopefully, become a professor at a research institution. However, he is keeping his options open. His main interests and goals are to work with people excited about what they are doing, explore exciting research, and create something beautiful. He wants to make an impact on something while also mentoring and instructing others throughout each part of the journey.

Levi received the Department of Chemistry’s 2018 Lloyd W. Goerke Scholarship.