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Oxford College’s small, academically intensive environment encouraged me to explore my academic interests and passions. One of the most rewarding experiences for me at Oxford was interacting with professors outside of the classroom. During my first semester of Organic Chemistry with Dr. Annette Neuman, I learned more about her research from going to her office hours. My interest in her research later led me to work in her summer research through the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program.
Our research focused on synthesis and purification of disubstituted 1,3,4-thiadiazole via C-H activation. Compounds with 1,3,4-thiadiazoles have biological activities like anticancer, antimicrobial, and antioxidant. We investigated how to substitute the C-H bond with a C-C bond shown in the reaction scheme below. Our research is developing a method to facilitate the synthesis of disubstituted 1,3,4-thiadiazoles, which can be used to discover drugs.
Participating in the SURE program enriched my learning experience at Oxford College. Here are the four takeaways from my 10-week intensive research:
1. Independence in Research
Conducting research was different from taking a lab class. Unlike lab class, I was not given specific lab procedures nor a curriculum to follow. Instead, I planned my lab by discussing scientific literature and data with Dr. Neuman, which led us to design the research according to what we prioritized.
2. Communication with Principal Investigator (PI)
Because Oxford College does not have graduate students, Dr. Neuman was my mentor and my PI. In other words, our research lab consisted of only me and Dr. Neuman. Since this was my first research experience, I appreciated the one to one interaction with Dr. Neuman. Communicating with Dr. Neuman helped me to stay on track and be efficient in lab.
3. Resilience in Lab
Most of the time, lab does not go according to plan perfectly. I faced obstacles ranging from the rotary evaporator not working well to the reaction not forming the desired product. Instead of being frustrated, I learned to be flexible with my lab plans and ready to troubleshoot.
4. Free Time
Despite the learning experiences of research, I appreciated the breaks from working 40 hours in the lab. Over the weekends, I watched movies, explored Covington, or met new people. The SURE program not only gave me a rewarding research experience but also an opportunity to make new friends.
Thanks to the SURE program and Dr. Neuman’s guidance, I am more confident in persevering through academic challenges and pursuing my passion in chemistry.
Min Ji Choi 18OX 20C