Two Students Receive Summer Research Fellowships

Maki Somosot '12

Two Students Receive
Summer Research Fellowships

by Maki Somosot '12
4/16/2010

Althea Gaffney '11

 Althea Gaffney '11

Two students - Althea Gaffney '11 and Elan Silverblatt-Buser '12 - are the recipients of nationally competitive Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF). The fellowships assist promising undergraduates so they can conduct meaningful research early in their college careers.

Gaffney, an honors chemistry major and psychology minor from Granada Hills, Calif., received a SURF from the American Chemical Society Division of Organic Chemistry. She is just one of 16 undergraduates who qualified for this fellowship - and the second consecutive student from Professor of Organic Chemistry Robert Paley's lab to win one. Nate Erskine '10 received it last year.  

The SURF will enable Gaffney to conduct independent research at Swarthmore this summer under the guidance of faculty mentor Paley. It will also provide Gaffney with financial support to visit the Pfizer, Inc. headquarters in the fall, where she will present the results of her summer research during a poster session.

Gaffney's work, which she will use for her honors research project, is titled "Planar Chiral 2-Sulfinyl Diene Iron(0) Tricarbonyl Complexes as a Platform for Diastereoselective Synthesis of Spiroketals." According to Gaffney, spiroketals are important sub-units of pharmaceutically relevant natural compounds. She will use the the iron fragment of these compounds to direct the stereochemistry of the reactions, as well as study the effects of ring substitution on the stereoselectivity of the compounds. Gaffney, who plans to further her studies in organic chemistry in graduate school, is looking forward to gaining the experience in synthetic organic chemistry this fellowship will provide.

Elan Silverblatt-Buser '12

Elan Silverblatt-Buser '12

Silverblatt-Buser, from Albuquerque, N.M., received one of 15 SURFs from the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB). In his research, under the mentorship of Assistant Professor of Biology Nick Kaplinsky, he investigates how BOBBER1 (BOB1), a small, heat shock protein, affects the development of Arabidopsis, a small, flowering plant. He plans to present his results at the annual ASPB national meeting in Minneapolis.

"It should be feasible to use map-based cloning to clone a gene during the course of this summer," he says. "Once I have cloned a BOB1 modifier, I plan on characterizing the gene and its developmental functions as part of an honors thesis project."

"I am really excited to be participating in science research at the undergraduate level," Silverblatt-Buser adds. "This fellowship will allow me to continue my research and follow my passion towards plants and biology, and enable me to continue to see how an understanding of plants on a scientific level can help solve real world problems. This summer will undoubtedly be an invaluable experience that will positively influence my career as a biologist."