Alex is a senior chemistry student - graduating in December - at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. This summer she is working with Sheeniza Shah in the Mack Lab studying the use of mechanic energy in organic synthetic reactions as a method of reducing waste and toxic byproducts in the Green movement.
Alex explains her researc as follows:
The Mack lab focuses on an environmentally conscious approach to chemical synthesis, green chemistry. This aspect of chemistry has a multitude of guiding principles, arguably one of the highest prioritized being the prevention of waste. Solvent waste makes up nearly 60% of chemical waste generated annually; much of this solvent is toxic, teratogenic, or carcinogenic and in many ways, costly to dispose of. High-speed ball milling (HSBM) is a solution to significantly reduce production-related waste, as it doesn’t require the energy of solvent but instead uses mechanical energy to convert reactants into products. My project focuses on optimization of a solvent-free synthesis using HSBM, specifically Sonogashira coupling. A typical Sonogashira reaction involves the coupling between a terminal alkyne and (in my case) an aryl halide through the use of palladium catalyst. It’s important to make this reaction more environmentally benign because it plays a critical role in the development of natural products, pharmaceuticals, as well as organic materials. The objectives of this research are to obtain high yields of product and to increase the sustainability not only by reducing solvent but also implementing material that may be recovered after the reaction has taken place. A thorough investigation involving alteration of palladium source, temperature, reaction time, etc. will hopefully lead to the accomplishment of these goals as well as provide a better understanding to the mechanistic properties of HSBM in itself.
Listen to Alex talking about her how she became a chemist.