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Six Female Science Students Awarded Clare Boothe Luce Undergraduate Research Scholarships

Six outstanding Hamilton women scientists have been named Clare Boothe Luce Undergraduate Research Scholars for the upcoming summer.  The awardees this year are Alex Betrus ’18, Katherine Fuzesi ’17, Vi Pham ’18, Linnea Sahlberg ’17, Isabella Schoning ’16, and Emily Sears ’17. Descriptions of their projects are provided below.

This award, which recognizes females planning on pursuing advanced studies in chemistry, computer science and physics, funds up to 10 weeks of a directed research project with a faculty mentor including both a student stipend and an allowance for equipment and supplies.  The purpose of the program is to encourage  more women to participate in meaningful science research opportunities as early in their academic careers as possible. 

The funds for this program are provided by the last year of a $144,600 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation with matching funds from Hamilton College.

Alex Betrus (mentor: Max Majireck)
“Development of Transannular Hydroamination Strategies for the Synthesis of Pyrrolizidines and Related Nitrogen Heterocycles”

Alex Betrus will be continuing research established by a previous Clare Booth Luce Scholar (Esther Cleary) on developing a general synthetic approach toward a class of neurologically active compounds containing pyrrolizidine ring systems.  In addition to investigating synthetic methodology, Betrus will test the biological activity of each of her products in order to understand what molecular features correlate with neuroactivity. This data will provide insights into the synthesis of new analogues with improved biological activity.

Vi Pham ’18 (mentor: Dan Griffith)

Pham will be developing an efficient synthetic approach to compounds inspired by a family of biologically-active alkaloids. This approach is highlighted by the deployment of novel cycloaddition reactions that could rapidly create molecular complexity from simple starting materials. Should this approach prove successful, a library of structural analogues would be prepared and evaluated for their biological activity.

Katherine Fuzesi ’17 and Emily Sears ’17 (mentor: Mark Bailey)

The proposed project will focus on developing a web-based integrated development environment for the Python language. The environment will enable students to develop Python-based web apps without technological restrictions. The project will include a syntax-sensitive editor, integrated analysis tools for helping students write high-quality code and find programming errors, and simplified graphical environment for building engaging applications. The project requires a working knowledge of JavaScript, Python, Ajax and CGI programming, and a strong background in mathematics.

Linnea Sahlberg ’17 (mentor: Stuart Hirshfield)
“Development of a Python-Based Machine Learning Experimentation Suite”

We use three fNIRS devices in our experiment: the Hitachi fNIRS, the ISS fNIRS, and the remote-fNIRS. These fNIRS devices vary in the number of data channels, but they all give values of oxy- and deoxy-hemoglobin. Students on this team will create a Python program to take data from any of the fNIRS devices, and to extract features and run machine learning, basic statistics, and do basic graph generation, on the data.  This will allow us to perform cross-device comparisons.

Isabella Schoning ’16 (mentor: Brian Collett)

Schoning will be working on re-instrumenting the Ebert spectrometer, continuing the work of Will Robbins. This will involve becoming familiar with the instrument and replacing the computer that controls the stepper motor system. She will create a new user interface and should increase the resolution of the instrument by a factor between 4 and 10. This will give us an instrument that can measure the spectral splitting between Hydrogen and Deuterium to reasonable precision and can be used for studies of molecular emission spectra which provide direct insight in the quantum mechanical harmonic oscillator.

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