FDU students conduct research in Novo Nordisk program

September 7, 2017 — For the sixth straight year, Becton College’s Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Science hosted the Novo Nordisk Undergraduate Research Program. The program hosts six Fairleigh Dickinson University students and their faculty mentors for 10 weeks of intensive, mentored research on a publishable topic. At the end of the 10-week program, students present their research to Novo Nordisk, a pharmaceutical company, on campus.

Three students who participated this year share their experience:

Rebecca Wodzinski

student researcher Wodzinski

Rebecca Wodzinski is a junior in the five-year chemistry program with a concentration in pharmaceutical chemistry. Also studying for a minor in physics, Wodzinski did her project on DNA, and hopes to one day work in pharmaceutical drug development research.

Participating in the Novo Nordisk Scholars Program has provided me with a number of educational and experiential opportunities. Through the generous financial support of Novo Nordisk, I was able to dedicate the summer to intensive research work. The ability to continue the work I started during the previous academic year has been invaluable in furthering my progress in both my research, as well as in my chemical education. I have greatly expanded my laboratory and research skills during my summer experience.

Furthermore, time spent in the lab during the summer is immensely more productive than during the hectic school semester. During the academic year, I am not always able to dedicate as much time and energy to my research project as I would like to. Summertime, therefore, is the ideal time to conduct research, unhindered by the usual time and scheduling constraints. Additionally, it is extremely helpful to be able to do this work at a time when my faculty mentor, Mohammed Elshaer, assistant professor of biochemistry, is also more available to perform research.

Over the course of the 10-week program, we were able to carry out several longer-term reactions, explore alternative reaction routes, optimize reaction conditions, and characterize our products. I was extremely pleased to be able to present such quantifiable progress and findings at the end of this program; this wonderful opportunity to present my work to an audience is excellent career preparation in and of itself. I am also extremely excited to present our findings at outside research symposia and conferences.

All in all, I am grateful to everyone involved in the 2017 Novo Nordisk Scholars Program. I have thoroughly enjoyed the immersion into an atmosphere of innovation, discovery, and a true passion for science. Living and working alongside other undergraduate researchers has fostered a cooperative and supportive learning and working environment, which I am proud to be a part of. It has granted me a greater insight into the collaborative nature of science, and has better prepared me for a future career in chemical research.

Melissa Rock

student researcher Rock

Melissa Rock, right, with her with her mentor Edward Salaski, assistant professor of chemistry, is a junior biochemistry and pre-pharmacy student in the seven-year accelerated program. She has an interest in pharmaceutical research and drug design.

The Novo Nordisk Undergraduate Summer Research program was a wonderful opportunity for me to gain valuable hands-on research experience. It allowed me to get a 10-week head start on a research project that I will be continuing in the upcoming year. I became familiar with techniques and routine processes in the lab, as I ran reactions, performed by previous research students in my group, as well as brand new reactions. Also, I became proficient at specific reactions and processes for my indazole (an organic compound) project.

I learned techniques, including purifying crude reaction mixtures and using syringes to add air sensitive reagents to my reaction mixtures. I learned how to perform the aqueous workup required for my research and work under certain conditions like an inert argon atmosphere. I gained experience using different analysis techniques like Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC) and proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). Traditional organic chemistry lab classes do not always offer enough exposure on running these tests, which is why this program was so beneficial. I became familiar with performing the prep work necessary for taking a TLC analysis and I also used the software required for the NMR machine. My mentor provided me with insight and guidance throughout the process. This program showed me how to manage and oversee my reactions using these analyses. Additionally, presenting my findings helped me improve my presentation skills.

The Novo Nordisk program allowed me to develop skills that I know I will be using in the future. As a pharmacy major who wants to go into pharmaceutical research, specifically drug design and development, it is crucial for me to gain as much knowledge as possible about drugs and drug design. This research program gave me the opportunity to be exposed to this knowledge and environment. This summer was the first time I got the chance to do what I will be doing for the rest of my life and I enjoyed every minute of it. This Novo Nordisk summer program was a great opportunity for me and I am truly grateful that I was able to take part in it.

Alex Geczo

student researcher Geczo

Alex Geczo is a senior in the five-year masters program for chemistry and bachelors program for chemistry with a concentration in pharmaceutical science.

The Novo Nordisk program was an incredible opportunity and experience. It has given me a head start on continuing my research in the fall, as I work toward the ultimate goal of being a published author in a scientific journal.

Working in the laboratory helped me enhance my skills in precision and accuracy, and has given me the opportunity to use several laboratory instruments and processes to analyze my samples. The opportunity to work one on one with my mentor, Svetlana Bashkova, assistant professor of chemistry, was an amazing mentorship experience that helped improve my literature research and data analysis skills, as well as my presentation and scientific writing skills.

This program helped prepare me for the classes I will be taking as I go into my senior year and has ignited my passion for research. After graduating, I plan to pursue a career as a medicinal chemist.