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2005 McNair Program Abstracts

Synthesis of Inorganic Liquid-Crystals Using Copper Dimers
Omonyele Bancole
Mentor: Dr. Thomas Clayton, Knox College

Nowadays, high performance plasma televisions with big flat screens are widely available. The making of these pieces of entertainment involves quite a few organic liquid-crystals. The present research looks at ways to synthesize inorganic liquid-crystals using copper. The goal is not only to find simple methods for these syntheses, but also to ensure the purity of the products while reaching a high yield for their reactions. Melting points, IR-spectra analysis, solubility tests and elemental analysis are used to assess the nature and purity of the product. Tetracetate dicopper (II) and tetraoctanoate dicopper (II) are first synthesized and used as starting materials in the making of inorganic liquid-crystals. The quality of the product depends on the quality of the starting materials, which can be a real challenge.

Latinos in Higher Education: How far have we come?
Maria Luna
Mentor: Dr. Nilda Flores-Gonzalez, University of Illinois at Chicago

In the past 20 years, the number of Latinos entering higher education institutions has increased. However, Latinos are still the group with the lowest graduation rate, not only in high school but also in higher education, behind African Americans, Asian Americans and Caucasians. One cause of this problem is that the majority of Latinos are attending community colleges and they are not graduating or transferring to four-year institutions. Their lack of orientation from family and school administrators, the cultural adjustment and related challenges and the issues with identity formation have challenged Latino students. This study is a literature review that examines current research regarding the journey of Latinos in higher education since the 1960s and how new challenges have arisen with the new generation of Latino college students. Also, it explores different strategies colleges and universities are using to both retain and serve the specific needs of Latino students.

Synthesis of alpha-aminophosphonic acids via chiral auxiliaries
Claire Matekaitis
Mentor: Dr. Diana Cermak, Knox College

Alpha-aminophosphonic acids have been shown to have promising biological uses, such as antibacterial agents, pesticides, herbicides, and enzyme inhibitors. These molecules are alpha-amino acid derivatives where a phosphoryl group is substituted for the carbonyl group. This project investigates a new way to synthesize these compounds through an imino phosphonate intermediate which contains a chiral auxiliary. Imine synthesis was attempted using three different methods. Although none of these methods have yet proven to be entirely successful, progress has been made towards the synthesis of this key intermediate. Products from imine reactions were characterized using 1H NMR, 13C NMR, and in most cases, IR. Certain spectroscopic methods gave data which indicated possible presence of imine, but also gave peaks of starting material as well as some peaks of unknown origin. Although a pure imino phosphonate was never isolated, the results from the attempted methods will help in modifications of future reactions.

Synthesis and modification of lesquerolic estolides for use as industrial lubricants
Andria Widaman
Mentor: Dr. Diana Cermak, Knox College

Due to the low biodiversity of crops grown in the U.S., crops are becoming more susceptible to destruction by pests and disease. The USDA has been attempting to find uses for non-traditional crops for their future addition to current crop rotations. Of current interest is Lesquerella fendleri, a member of the Brassicaceae (mustard) family, which is currently being grown in the southwestern U.S. Its seed oil, containing high levels of a hydroxy-fatty acid similar to castor oil, is being studied for its use as an industrial lubricant. Vegetable oils have proved to have high lubricity, but typically have poorer cold temperature properties and oxidative stability compared to commercially available functional fluids. Previous work with similar seed oils has shown that these properties can be improved deriving estolides from the oil. Estolide formation involves the addition of two or more fatty acids to those contained in the oil to produce a large branched structure. This research involves the synthesis and modification of lesquerolic estolides using different saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, followed by analysis of their physical properties. Also, estolides have been synthesized at lower temperatures in the presence of a tin catalyst to accommodate for the addition of smaller-chain fatty acids, which was not possible using past reaction conditions.

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