Week 10: The Realities of Scientific Research

Tomorrow is the last official day of my summer of undergraduate research.  Over the course of the summer, I’ve learned a lot about both extended kinetic method experiments and scientific research in general.

In regard to the KM project, I looked at amino acids with varying cyclic structures: 1-aminocyclopropane carboxylic acid, 1-aminocyclobutane carboxylic acid, 1-aminocyclopentane carboxylic acid (cycloleucine), and 1-aminocyclohexane carboxylic acid.  The formula structures for the four compounds are shown below, beginning with 1-aminocyclopropane carboxylic acid and ending with 1-aminocyclohexane carboxylic acid.

1-Aminocyclopropanecarboxylic acid ≥98% (TLC)

1-Amino-1-cyclobutanecarboxylic acid 97%

Cycloleucine 97%

1-Aminocyclohexanecarboxylic acid 98%

Myself and one other lab member experimentally determined the gas-phase acidities of 1-aminocyclopropane carboxylic acid and 1-aminocyclobutane carboxylic acid to be 1423.9 kJ/mol and 1424.6kJ/mol, respectively.  This was done by creating heterodimers of the analyte and a chosen reference.  Our experiments and calculations also allowed us to determine the entropy value for the appropriate protonation reaction to be -6 kJ/mol and -12 kJ/mol for 1-aminocyclopropane carboxylic acid and 1-aminocyclobutane carboxylic acid, respectively.

In addition, we had begun to experiment on cycloleucine and 1-aminocyclohexane carboxylic acid to determine its proton affinity, but were unable to finish.  We plan to continue this project in the upcoming semester.

Secondly, I learned a lot more about the reality of working in a scientific lab, both the positives and negatives.  The positives were: getting to become extremely comfortable with the instrumentation being used, becoming closer to both my lab members and research advisor, being able to confidently and independently run KM experiments.  Some of the negatives would be: the realization that our results were limited by our instrumentation and software, having to repeatedly troubleshoot with the instrument, and the awareness of the slow pace that comes with publishing scientific articles.  Scientific innovations and results are not found and published in a ten week period.

Overall, I felt like I had a great experience doing undergraduate research at The College and was exposed to a wide range of projects and procedures.  I will be continuing this project during my senior year and hope to use the knowledge I have learned this summer in the future.