Chemistry Major Wins American Chemical Society Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Grant will support search for treatments for a host of infections and diseases.

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Senior chemistry major Maggie McEwan is the winner of a $5,000 Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the American Chemical Society to support her work on chemical compounds produced by organisms that can be used to treat human infections and diseases. These natural sources do not produce enough material for scientists to thoroughly test and so must be synthesized in a laboratory.

"It’s great to be recognized for this work," McEwan says. "I’ve been lucky to participate in different research opportunities on campus in the past two years. This next-level national recognition and support will help us achieve our goals more quickly. It will also make me more competitive for graduate school applications coming up this fall."

McEwan and faculty adviser Dr. Jeffrey Carney, associate professor of chemistry, are working on a synthesis of a group of four compounds whose only known source is a rare yew tree found in China. The pair hope their research will uncover treatments for diseases of the central nervous system, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

“No known laboratory procedure for preparing these compounds currently exists, so we analyzed them and devised a route for their construction," says Carney. "Our goals are to make the four molecules to confirm the structure of the natural compounds and allow for further study to understand their activity as medicines, and their potential role in the treatment of these diseases."

In addition to the comprehensive undergraduate research experience available to McEwan at Christopher Newport, the grant will provide for research expenditures and enable her to travel to Boston to present her findings and attend scientific talks.

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