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March 23, 2020

Senior recognized for outstanding achievement in organic chemistry

Michigan State University chemistry senior Natasha Perry was selected by the American Chemical Society, or ACS, Division of Organic Chemistry to receive its Undergraduate Award for Outstanding Achievement in Organic Chemistry.

The award recognizes senior students who display a significant aptitude for organic chemistry and was established to encourage further interest in the field.

“I am thankful that someone was aware of my work and supports my future endeavors,” said Perry, who will pursue her Ph.D. in organic chemistry this fall. “I regard this award as recognition of my hard work in both my academics and in the research lab.”

Perry’s research has been in total synthesis, that is, the complete chemical synthesis of complex organic molecules from simpler pieces. For the past 18 months, she has participated in research in the lab of  Babak Borhan, professor of synthetic and bioorganic chemistry, where she has worked on some of the intermediates involved in synthesizing Napyrdiomycin A1, a member of naphthomycins – a group of closely related anti-microbial chemical compounds isolated from Streptomyces.

Napyrdiomycin A1, a naturally occurring molecule, has demonstrated antitumor properties. Perry was involved in running some of the reactions to produce intermediates, completing workups, purifying compounds and analyzing results. Perry was also involved with making catalysts to push some of the reactions forward.

Perry hopes to continue natural product synthesis in graduate school with some added organometallic applications.

“I am still deciding between attending Cornell, the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” Perry said.

Award recipients are nominated by their university’s chemistry departments, which select a top graduating senior student majoring in chemistry or biochemistry who has demonstrated excellence in organic chemistry based on research experience, coursework and a desire to pursue a career in chemistry.

“A community college transfer student, Natasha is a terrific example of how students coming to MSU from different paths can thrive and succeed,” said Robert E. Maleczka Jr., professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry in the MSU College of Natural Science. “She is fully engaged in the department, including as a member of Professor Babak Borhan's lab and as a leader in the department’s chemistry club, all while maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA. In short, Natasha is a most exceptional student, chemist and colleague.”

The award includes a letter of recognition from the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry, an award certificate and recognition on the division’s website, where the names of all awardees and their university affiliation are listed. Awardees who are members of the ACS, as Perry is, also receive membership to the Division of Organic Chemistry; those who are not receive affiliate status.

By: Val Osowski