Updated: Jun 6, 2018
Ruth came from Fisk University to do research in collaboration with Professor Neil Ayers and his graduate student Qinyuan Chai. She presented her work at the ACS meeting elegantly spring of 2018.
Ruth’s project was part of a long-term study to investigate the effect of molecular weight on the effectiveness of a polymer anticoagulant. Our hypothesis has been that molecular weight, or the overall size of the polymer, should not have a marked effect on its anticoagulant ability. One example of a powerful naturally occurring polymer anticoagulant is heparin, which has been used as a blood thinner clinically for decades. Our lab has extensive experience in synthesizing and characterizing polymer anticoagulants that are effective at prolonging blood-clotting times. However, we have so far not been able to examine the effect of molecular weight as we have used a simple step-growth polymerization strategy. Ruth’s project was to prepare an amine-functionalized sugar (e.g. mannose or lactose) and use this to displace an activated ester on a polymer prepared by a controlled chain growth polymerization. The benefit of using a this controlled chain-growth derived polymer is that we can prepare polymer of multiple chain lengths but with narrow dispersities, i.e. all the chains have similar molecular weights within a sample. Therefore, upon achieving this synthesis we can accurately determine the effect of molecular weight on the anticoagulant ability of the polymer using our reported clotting time assays. Ruth was able to complete several steps of challenging organic chemistry in preparing the amine-functionalized sugars, and has positioned the project for future success. Ruth was able to gain skills in the synthesis and characterization of small molecules and experience in organic polymer chemistry during this project.
Here is a video of Ruth explaining what she gained from participating in the REU program.