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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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« J. Appl. Drivel or Gibberish Lett.? Choices, Choices. | Main | Shuffling the Departments »

April 22, 2014

Funding Undergraduate Summer Research

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Posted by Derek

I wanted to mention another crowdfunded organic chemistry effort, this one on a small (and useful) scale. A former colleague of mine, Brent Chandler, is an assistant professor of chemistry at Illinois College, and he's working with undergraduates in organic synthesis. At the moment, he's trying to get funding for a summer undergraduate to work on a new synthesis of muscone. Synthesis of these macrocyclic musk compounds has only recently become economical at all, and prices are still high, so there's an opportunity.

I got my own start in the business as a summer undergrad back in 1981 at Hendrix College, and it was a great experience. The Indiegogo site for this effort is here. Chandler is trying to find an economical route to muscone, to train a young chemist, and to demonstrate to his institution that this can be a viable way to fund targeted research projects. We'll see how it works out!

Comments (10) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Chemical News


1. NH_chem on April 22, 2014 7:49 AM writes...

Great idea. Could have used something like this when I had to live for 3 summer months on $500. Sometimes, you have to love the internet. Good luck!

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2. Chemcat on April 22, 2014 9:57 AM writes...

Yes, this is a nice idea. Glad to hear that crowdfunding might help a student to nourish a passion for organic synthesis and to make a contribution to chemistry. Please keep us posted on this one, Derek. :)

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3. Anonymous on April 22, 2014 10:34 AM writes...

i wonder if synthetic muscone would really replace the natural product in its market. the key ingredient in a lot of these eastern aphrodisiacs to me seems to be animal suffering. they find a rare and valuable animal, kill it (or worse, as in the case of bile bears), and then pick some random part of its anatomy to grind up and snort

still it sounds like a good undergrad research project

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4. okemist on April 22, 2014 11:55 AM writes...

The most important aspect of this work is the personal interaction of the undergrad and a PhD. It is really the only opportunity for a B.S. chemist to have a relationship such as this. I worked on two synthetic projects with different professors in my senior year at a small SUNY college, and little did I realize at the time that that was exactly what I would be doing successfully for the next 25 years as a career.

Like Derek, I worked with Brent as well and he will make a terrific mentor, congratulations and best of luck in this pursuit.


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5. Erebus on April 22, 2014 12:18 PM writes...

@3 - Synthetic muscone and civetone are downright common in China these days. They're not cheap, but they're not particularly expensive, and they're very easy to find. For all industrial purposes, and most commercial purposes, the synthetic stuff has already replaced the natural stuff...

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6. annon on April 22, 2014 12:24 PM writes...

And this approach to getting funding for doing something that really has no need after last-week's debate on budgeting, funding, and cutting the number of new PhD chemists.......come on now.

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7. Anon on April 22, 2014 1:00 PM writes...

I'm all for learning on an individual basis, but I look at this as though many professors are doing it. It may not be the best to fuel this.
I'm also hoping this isn't just another pre-med looking for an easy pub to stack the resume.

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8. Anonymous on April 22, 2014 5:52 PM writes...

Pre-Meds looking to pad their resume usually don't choose research in organic synthesis. Furthermore, students who do this stuff are often looking for experience that makes them more employable at the BS level. It doesn't have to be cutting edge stuff to be a good training opportunity.

What's REALLY sad about this, is that even primarily undergraduate schools (who now expect faculty research) can't find the relatively small amount of money required to fund a modest summer stipend like this.

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9. ANon on April 23, 2014 7:58 AM writes...

I am a professor at a fairly large State university and just yesterday asked about the possibility of crowdsourcing funds for my research. I was told that this is not an option here b/c of IP and other variables (maybe indirect costs cuts etc). It is a shame as this represents one of the best and most efficient use of money to directly influence research! I doubt my university is alone on this one so hopefully there is some change coming nationwide!

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10. Rhenium on April 23, 2014 9:51 AM writes...

Given the link between smell and memory, I think this is an experience that the student will never forget, regardless of whether they pursue chemistry as a career.

"Ah yes, I remember it like it was yesterday. The smell of wet goats always brings me back to my undergrad days in a humid lab in the mid-West..."

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