Professor Zuidema, Chemistry Student, and Alumna Publish Research
Chemistry professor Dr. Dan Zuidema, Katie Wert '08, and Sarah Williams '10 discovered a way to reduce ketones without running the risk of starting fires. The results of their research were published this spring in the peer-reviewed journal Synthetic Communications.
"We've been continuing our study of reduction reactions in organic chemistry," says Dr. Zuidema. "Many reduction procedures require the use of hydrogen gas, extremely flammable or explosive reagents, expensive catalysts, or a combination of these. Some of these reagents burst into flames upon exposure to water. The method we developed requires isopropanol and sodium hydroxide. Both of these materials are inexpensive and fairly benign compared with many of the reagents required to carry out reductions."
Their discovery has immediate practical applications. "When making chemical structures, chemists often need different ways to change a ketone into an alcohol to make specific chemical compounds," explains Sarah. "Some synthetic drugs and other compounds may require this conversion step in order for them to be made. One way of reducing ketones does not work for all molecules, so our research provides another tool in the toolkit that chemical manufacturers use to make chemical compounds.
"Getting to do this research with Dr. Zuidema was such an honor. . . . Often, we would sit and talk over the finer details of the research, how things worked, and why certain byproducts were made."