Chemistry Major, Studio Art Minor
Story by Camille Brown '14
Photos by John Williams '12 and Michelle Orr '13
Originally appeared in The Knox Student in April 2012
Senior Zackary Herbst did not take a chemistry class until his sophomore year at Knox. Although he discovered the subject later than most, it became a passion that is now culminating in an Honors project.
In simple terms, Herbst is synthesizing a single molecule that would be used to make "biologically active molecules." These molecules would then be useable in the pharmaceutical or agricultural worlds in the form of hormones. The new molecule Herbst is making takes on oxygen molecules in a specific way that makes it biologically active for this purpose.
Other molecules for the same purposes have already been created, but Herbst feels that his project will be an improvement.
"I'm trying to make one that is different than all the others that is more efficient," he said.
Herbst first heard about this type of molecule while working with Professor of Chemistry Diana Cermak who was assisting two other Knox students with similar research.
"This was something [chemists] hadn't been working on for 15 years," Herbst said.
The "kickoff" for Herbst's particular project came when Knox senior Andy Hill's synthesis of his molecule was successful. Since it is late in the academic year, much of Herbst's project has already been completed.
"I've made the main molecule and right now I'm characterizing it," he said.
Herbst's committee for this project includes Cermak as well as Associate Professor and Chair of Chemistry Thomas Clayton, Professor of Chemistry Mary Crawford, and Professor of Physics Thomas Moses.
While looking forward to the completion of his project, Herbst also looks back on some obstacles he had to overcome, including having to drop his Studio Art major to a minor in order to focus more on the project. He plans to pursue a Ph.D in organic chemistry after graduation and perhaps eventually obtain a Master of Fine Arts.