The chemistry department is more than just having fun with Bunsen burners and late nights of study in Von Liebig. It is also about having the opportunity to work on exciting research projects. Andrew Schuchart ’10 is exploring exciting new territory with anticancer drugs. He also spent a summer doing chemistry research in the Czech Republic with the Palacký University in Olomouc.
Can you explain what your Juniata project is as well as the research you did in the Czech Republic?
At Juniata College I am synthesizing copper complexes with guanine 3-N-oxide. We hope that these complexes will have favorable biological activity, specifically antitumor/anticancer activity. We hope that they will inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Adenine (which is similar to guanine) metal complexes and guanine N-oxides have already been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
In the Czech Republic, I was synthesizing copper and tin complexes with kinetin. Kinetin and its derivatives have been shown to have anti-aging, anti-thrombotic (inhibits blood clots), and anticancer properties. We hope that the complexes we are making will have these same properties, but with better results — meaning work faster, use less of the substance, etc.
What’s the most challenging part of research for you?
The most challenging part of research is knowing how to progress if something goes wrong, what conditions need to be changed in order to get a desired result and what part of my compounds should I modify to get a desired property. This is the whole point of research though; figuring out how to solve a problem. I am working on something that is new; there is no literature or person to consult if something goes wrong.
What was the research like in the Czech Republic?
Doing research in the Czech Republic was unlike anything I could have done at Juniata College or in the United States. I was immersed in a very unique culture, one that differs greatly from the American culture. I was able to interact with people who had a different outlook on the world and life in general. I learned how their education system works, and even got to watch graduate students defend their theses. It was interesting even though everything was in Czech.
How did you decide to work with Peter Baran?
I decided to work with Dr. Baran because I had an interest in inorganic chemistry. Also, his projects had the most appeal to me. I thought it would be great to work on something that could cure cancer, or at least some cancers.
Do you want to pursue research beyond Juniata?
I am not sure if I want to pursue research beyond Juniata. It is hard to say what I will be doing after my time here. If the opportunity arises to do research on a topic that interests me, such as curing cancer, I will take it.
-Caitlin Stormont ’10, Juniata Online Journalist