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Devon Jakob '16

Synthesis, Isolation, and Characterization of the Catalytic Activity of Rhodium Complexes

Major/Minor: Chemistry, Minor-German
Hometown: Bethlehem PA Project
Advisors: Dr. Stephen Dunham and Dr. Shari Dunham

Briefly describe your project.

I am repeating the synthesis of dirhodium complexes that were first synthesized a few years ago in the Dunham Lab. These compounds are novel, meaning they were never synthesized before they were synthesized at Moravian College. Previous work on these complexes focused on their ability to bind to DNA, however dirhodium complexes in general originated as catalysts. I am essentially studying the catalytic ability of our dirhodium complexes.

Why did you decide to turn your idea into a SOAR project?

I met Dr. Stephen Dunham through Dr. Holliday, a fellow chemistry professor. I was interested in learning more about inorganic chemistry and wanted to possibly work with inorganic compounds throughout the summer. Dr. Holliday suggested I talk to Dr. (Stephen) Dunham. After a few conversations, we decided to pursue a SOAR project focusing on inorganic chemistry.

How did your faculty advisors guide you through your research?

They always seem to know where to go next. Whenever I need advice on what to do next, they always know. The best insight I got about research in general comes from something Dr. (Stephen) Dunham said to me a while back. “Our research might help someone someday; but even if it doesn’t, at least we’re having fun”. That means a lot to me, because I’m having fun researching, and if someday it helps somebody, well then how can it get any better?

What was your biggest obstacle?

By far, the biggest obstacle I’ve faced (and I think we’ve all faced), is simply trying to make the instruments and apparatus work correctly. There are points where you simply have to focus on something else while waiting for an instrument to be fixed.

What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?

Simply put; Scientific research takes time. You may set out to answer a question in mind, but find yourself answering entirely different questions weeks later. “Why did that happen?” “Why is there another peak in my data?” “Is there a variable we’re missing?” Scientific research is straight forward but at the same time it’s not.

What was the result of your project? Was it congruent with your hypothesis?

We know that our complexes will possess catalytic activity. We just need to put numbers to each of them!

Will you expand on your research after this summer is over? If so, where would you like to see it go?

I am continuing this project as an independent study wherein I will complete the catalytic analysis of all of our dirhodium complexes. I am excited to continue work with both Dr. Stephen Dunham and Dr. Shari Dunham.