The Importance of Student Research

Who knows what will become of my summer project. Maybe the report I present to my respondents will be extremely useful and help them better implement nutrition policy in Tanzania, or maybe it will just reinforce what they already know. I hope to compile something that can at least point them towards new ideas and approaches. But selfishly, I already know I’ve gained so much.

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Emerging Themes

A few days ago I had one of my best interviews yet. The respondent had an amazing sense of what needs to be done to move Tanzania and the National Nutrition Strategy forward, but struggled to from his position. Already I’m seeing that many respondents think the nutrition landscape of Tanzania has changed in the last few years, since the introduction of the SUN movement. There’s a great positive feeling for the movement and national stakeholders are definitely getting more involved in the issue.

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Progress and Setbacks in the Lab

My research towards the synthesis of loline alkaloids has had some interesting results this summer. After several unsuccessful attempts, I was able to make the methyl ester carbamate in 72% overall yield. This is an improvement over the 65% yield reported in our 2011 synthesis, so it’s a promising result. Next, I will  need to characterize the substrate, which entails writing a detailed procedure for the reaction, as well as reporting necessary NMR, MS, and IR data. All of this information is useful in affirming the structural identity of the compound, which allows for other researchers and myself to reproduce results and further knowledge of the overall synthesis.  Once you’ve successfully reproduced a reaction, you can scale it up to save time in the future. To that end, I’ve also been reproducing some of the earlier reactions in the synthesis to move more material forward so we can make substantial progress toward the final natural product.