Talk Science seminar discusses research from undergraduate students and faculty

Author: Rachel Cotton, '14

Ansel Nalin at the Talk Science seminar 2/7/13

Scientia, the Undergraduate Journal of Scientific Research, hosts a monthly seminar series entitled, Talk Science. Held in the Jordan Hall of Science Reading Room in a fun and informal setting, Talk Science is a time and place for building camaraderie among science undergraduate students and faculty. Junior chemistry major Ansel Nalin and Prof. Stuart Jones both gave presentations on their research to 35 students at the most recent Talk Science seminar on Thursday, February 7.

Nalin, who has worked in laboratory of Richard Taylor, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and associate dean for research in the College of Science, for the past three years, spoke on the applications of ether transfer in the synthesis of natural products. Many drugs, including the anti-cancer drug Taxol, are derived from natural products. However, these compounds do not occur at a high enough abundance or purity in nature to be useful. Nalin and other members of Taylor’s research group work to develop synthesis routes for these natural products. Nalin discussed his use of an ether transfer in the synthesis of Diospongin, a natural product that has similar biological activity in the inhibition of calcium release compared to a commercial drug used to treat osteoporosis.  He plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. program after Notre Dame.

UNDERC

Stuart Jones, assistant professor of biological sciences, discussed the effects of terrestrial carbon on aquatic food webs. Since the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970 to reduce emissions and combat acid, the pH of lakes and surrounding soil has risen. This has decreased the ability of the soil to hold onto carbon, consequently increasing terrestrial carbon flowing into freshwater ecosystems. While this terrestrial carbon decreases water clarity, it may be an additional food source for zooplankton. Jones is trying to determine if this carbon influx is an overall subsidy or a subtraction to lake ecosystems, and his research group has combined mathematical modeling techniques and field experimentation at the University of Notre Dame Undergraduate Research Center (UNDERC) to address this question.

In addition to research talks over pizza, Talk Science serves as a forum for undergraduates to keep up with College of Science events.  Prof. Jones encouraged students to pursue summer study at UNDERC and to submit their ecology research for presentation at the upcoming Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference at Notre Dame on March 23-24. Students were also encouraged to present their work at the next College of Science Joint Annual Meeting (COS-JAM) on May 3. Abstracts for COS-JAM must be submitted by March 22.  

All undergraduate students are invited to attend the next Talk Science seminar on March 21.

Scientia is also accepting submissions through February 14 for the next issue of the journal. Visit scientia.nd.edu or contact the editors, Rachel Cotton and Rebecca Marton at scientia@nd.edu for more information.