Chemistry Undergrads at UMass Amherst to Conduct Research This Summer

AMHERST, Mass. - Six undergraduates studying chemistry at the University of Massachusetts will conduct laboratory research in synthetic chemistry for 10 weeks this summer through a program funded with a $30,000 grant from the Pfizer Central Research Division, Groton, Conn. Chemistry professor Paul Lahti, UMass coordinator for the program, made the announcement.

The funding comes through the Pfizer Research & Education Program And Recruiting Enterprise (PREPARE). The program is aimed at encouraging undergraduate students to get undergraduate research experience, and introducing students to job prospects for chemical research at pharmaceutical companies, Lahti said.

"The support level provided by the PREPARE program is comparable to that of undergraduate research experience programs funded by federal agencies, and provides students with a link to a potential future employer," said Lahti.

The 1999 PREPARE Fellowship awardees from UMass Amherst for 1999 are: Rob Albert, a junior from Westford; Claire Cohen, a sophomore from West Hartford, Conn.; Corey Coleman, a junior from Amherst; Eric Styche, a junior from Forestdale; Patrick Taylor, a junior from Middletown, Md.; and Narissa Whyte, a sophomore from Springfield. The students, all chemistry majors (with Coleman pursuing a dual major in chemistry and exercise science), were chosen based on recommendations from prospective research advisors, their grades, and a demonstrated interest in doing real laboratory chemistry, Lahti said. All of the awardees will work with graduate-level chemistry research groups. "The main research involves synthesis and isolation of organic molecules, many of which are of great potential value for their biological and pharmaceutical activity," Lahti said. The students will each receive a $3,000 stipend to conduct full-time research this summer.

The fellowship awardees have already visited Pfizer''s central research facility in Groton. The students toured the facility''s laboratories and attended presentations by scientists who described the process of developing a drug from conception to marketplace. Lahti noted that Pfizer has hired a number of UMass graduates in recent years. He also said UMass is increasing its emphasis on undergraduate research, and in recent years, corporations have stressed the importance of students conducting research at the undergraduate level. "Thanks to this grant, the UMass chemistry department can offer students a very high quality undergraduate research experience," he said.