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Bachelor’s phase research results in Science publication

21 April 2016

In spring 2015, chemistry student Marieke Veenstra did her final Bachelor’s project in organic chemistry. During the three-month project in Syuzanna Harutyunyan’s lab, she tested a new method to produce carbon-carbon bonds. Her work has ended up in a Science article that was published on 23 April.

Marieke Veenstra is currently studying for a Master’s in Chemistry, also at the University of Groningen. ‘I’m following the Catalysis and Green Chemistry specialization, because that has the most organic chemistry in it’, she says. Organic chemistry, working with carbon-based molecules, has interested her since the start of her Bachelor’s programme. ‘The Organic Synthesis course unit was interesting and I really enjoyed the practicals.’ So, when she was looking for a final Bachelor’s project, the organic chemistry research groups were where she looked.

She ended up working on a project for Syuzanna Harutyunyan, who is working on a way to create carbon-carbon bonds with a certain class of molecules, the heterocyclic aromatic compounds. ‘I was attracted to the project because it was about organic synthesis, and catalysis also played a role. I had heard a lot about catalysis, for example during course units on green chemistry, but I’d had no experience with it.’

The four authors of the Science article; Veenstra is second from right | Photo Harutyunyan’s lab
The four authors of the Science article; Veenstra is second from right | Photo Harutyunyan’s lab

Veenstra went to work under the supervision of Ravindra Panjabrao Jumde, one of the group’s senior researchers. ‘He taught me the technique the group has developed.’ The intention was for Veenstra to use that technique to make various combinations of molecules bond with each other.

What made this kind of work fun? ‘Synthesis is interesting. Basically you put a few things together and end up with something new.’ Compared to the many practicals she had followed, the task within the research group was more challenging. ‘You had to plan much more yourself, and think about things a lot more too. For example, which molecules I’d try the method out on.’

Eventually she created over ten compounds during her three-month project, which ended in June 2015. ‘Then I heard that the results would also be worked into a scientific publication.’ Around Christmas, it turned out that the article had been submitted to Science. And now Veenstra is a co-author of an article in this top-quality journal.

Veenstra will be starting another research project in September, this time for her Master’s degree programme. ‘Organic chemistry is still my favourite so I’m hoping that I can do another project with Harutyunyan’s group.’ Veenstra hopes to do the second research placement for the degree programme at an outside company. ‘Then I’ll know what that’s like, and whether I enjoy it.’ She’s not yet sure what she’s going to do after graduating. At the moment she’s still enjoying the success of her first project. ‘We’re going to celebrate soon with the whole group.’

See also: Cool combination produces easier carbon bonds, about the research published in Science

Last modified:22 April 2016 09.44 a.m.
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