Starring Drexel Faculty Mentors

Matthew McBride STAR StudentThe summer of freshman year marks a final summer vacation for many Drexel students. But each year a growing number of dedicated first-year students spend their vacations working in mentored research opportunities. The Honors College runs the STAR Scholars program, where each STAR student pairs with a Drexel faculty mentor for a summer of research. Projects vary from researching fabrics that can monitor heart rates to human rights in India. The creativity, and the number of students, grows every year. 2012 saw 137 scholars, while 150 are expected for summer 2013.

At the end of every summer is the STAR Summer Showcase. At this event, a faculty member receives the STAR Mentor of the Year Award. Student Matthew McBride nominated this year’s winner, Dr. Jean-Claude Bradley. “The Mentor of the Year is chosen solely based upon student nominations,” says Dr. Suzanne Rocheleau, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and director of the STAR program.

McBride’s nomination stood out because Dr. Bradley helped McBride receive the opportunity to present his research at this year’s American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition in Philadelphia. Drexel students have attended the ACS meeting before, but none have ever had the opportunity to present, as a freshman in college no less.

“I met Dr. Bradley in my UNIV 101 class in the fall quarter,” says McBride, “After one of the classes, I approached him regarding my interest in participating in undergraduate research.” University 101 is a mandatory course for all Drexel freshman designed to encourage students to become involved in civic engagement and start thinking about what they can do to reach their maximum potential at Drexel. Here, McBride learned that his professor was researching solubility. “I chose to work with Dr. Bradley because of the relevance of the solubility work (it is extremely useful across many different fields), I would receive training on different pieces of equipment (NMR, IR, UV/Vis spectroscopy) and my research would be released online using OpenNotebook Science,” says McBride. OpenNotebook will provide a permanent record of his research that he can show potential employers or graduate admission officers.

McBride’s summer research ultimately focused on solvents used to recrystallize organic compounds. Before McBride’s findings, scientists chose solvents based upon literature of what was used in the past. “Through our collaborating Dr. Andrew Lang from Oral Roberts University, a Smartphone app was developed that can be used to retrieve the predicted recrystallization yields for any organic compound,” says McBride, “This removes completely relying on the scientific literature for deciding what solvent to use.”

His research is important because recrystallization with solvents is used to purify organic compounds, many of which are used in pharmaceutical products. The process can result in a loss of organic compound being purified. By using a more efficient solvent, which McBride’s research helps scientists to find, scientists can obtain more of the purified product.

At the ACS Meeting, McBride presented to scientists from all over the world. “This was the first chemistry conference I had ever attended. I found it fascinating to attend talks and learn about the wide-range of applications for all sorts of chemistry related scientific findings,” says McBride. “Having the chance to present was a great honor.”

And though summer is over, McBride’s research is not. “I am still doing research with Dr. Bradley for research credit. I am currently assisting in the writing of the paper explaining the research I did over the summer that will be submitted for peer-reviewed publication,” he says. He intends to apply for the RISE fellowship, which will allow him to spend several months researching in Germany next summer at a university.