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Emily N. Saulino ’21

2021 SOAR Profile

Synthesizing Dirhodium-Maleimide-Glucose Complexes to Increase Solubility

Major: Biochemistry
Hometown: Easton, PA
Project Advisor(s): Dr. Stephen U. Dunham

Briefly describe your project.

This project was meant to be a continuation of my current Honors Project. Throughout my Honors, I have been working to synthesize various dirhodium-maleimide-amine complexes. It was predicted that some of these amines would be quite insoluble. For this reason, I worked to add a water-soluble glucose derivative, gluconic acid, to the base dirhodium-maleimide complex in hopes that this compound would counteract the hydrophobic effects of the nonpolar amines.


Emily N. Saulino ’21

Describe the origin of your project. (E.g., did you pitch the idea and choose a faculty member, or did they come to you with an idea?

I had already been working on an Honors Project with Dr. Steve. I expressed interest in doing a SOAR project over the summer that involved similar work. Dr. Steve proposed various project ideas and I picked the one that I found most interesting.

What’s the best part about working with your faculty mentor? What valuable insights have they brought to your project?

Dr. Steve allowed me to be very independent in the lab. I had the freedom to make many decisions and deal with various issues that arose on my own. He was always available when I had questions, but he pushed me to think for myself. Dr. Steve always took the time to explain different chemical concepts and lab techniques to me when I did not understand them or wanted further clarification. Additionally, he showed me how to find online resources that were related and helpful to my project.

What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

My biggest obstacle so far has been unexpected outcomes in the lab. Sometimes, reactions did not go as expected and I had to work backwards to see if any mistakes were made.

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

My biggest takeaway was that research never stops. There are always ways to improve and expand on prior work to make it better. Throughout the beginning part of my Honors, I never thought about altering my compounds in any way. This SOAR project afforded me with the time and resources to improve past research results.

What was the result of your project?

I was able to synthesize one of my intended products: trans-dirhodium-maleimide-gluconic acid complex.

In addition to this complex, I also synthesized the following complexes:

  • Cis-dirhodium-gluconic acid2
  • Cis-dirhodium-maleimide-TFA
  • Cis-dirhodum-maleimide2
  • Trans-dirhodium-maleimide2

In your own words, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program at Moravian University?

I am very grateful to have been awarded this opportunity. Without SOAR, I would not have had the time or resources to complete a project like this. I was able to fully experience what it is like to work in a lab full-time, similar to a graduate school environment. Students should take advantage of this opportunity so that they can better understand what research is, as well as what it means to have a career in research.

Now that SOAR is over, do you plan to expand upon your research? If so, how?

Yes, I do plan to expand my research. As previously mentioned, this research was an extension of prior research. I hope to combine all of these research projects together. I plan to further work with the complexes made in this project by either reacting them with amine compounds and/or testing them for toxicity in cancer cells.

Have you, or do you plan to present this research outside the SOAR presentations? If so, where? Be specific, if possible.

Yes, I have. I presented this work at the 2021 Landmark Conference. I would also like to present this work at a regional or national American Chemical Society Conference in fall 2021 or more likely spring 2022.

Are there any aspects of the program (e.g., professional opportunities) that you participated in that you really liked and would want to see continued?

The resume session was very helpful. Also, I think it would be helpful to continue to alert SOAR students of different summer presentation opportunities.