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Chemistry student heads to Québec

Meagan Beatty is a fourth-year chemistry student at UFV, and the tiny molecular structure she’s working to create may very well be her ticket into grad school. Thanks to SUS funding, she’ll be attending the Canadian Chemistry Conference in Québec City later this year to present her research.

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By Dessa Bayrock (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: March 27, 2013

Photo Credit Blake McGuire

“Basically,” she says, leaning back in her chair a little, “my work is about macrocyclic anion receptors.”

It’s more than a mouthful, but the syllables roll off her tongue easily. After all, this is something she’s been working on for almost a year.

Meagan Beatty is a fourth-year chemistry student at UFV, and the tiny molecular structure she’s working to create may very well be her ticket into grad school.

Thanks to SUS funding, she’ll be attending the Canadian Chemistry Conference in Québec City later this year to present her research. Rubbing elbows with chemistry students and professors across the country is a chance to show off the work she’s done, and hopefully will catch the eye of a professor who will recruit her to a grad school program.

“It’s like the bee’s knees – it’s the thing to go to,” she says with a grin. “It’s just to show how good you are, and then maybe, hopefully, you get recruited by people from other universities for grad studies.”

Meanwhile, there’s still work to do on the receptor she’s been building for the past three months.

The receptor is a molecule that bonds to a particular particle – in this case, a negatively-charged molecule called an anion. If all goes according to plan, she’ll put the receptor next to an anion at the end of the project and they’ll bind together.

“I use synthesis, so it’s one step to another to another,” Beatty says.  “Since January, I’ve gotten to point A to point B to point C, and now I’m currently working on C to D. Hopefully I’ll get there this week.”

“That’s what I do as a synthetic upcoming chemist,” she continues. “I won’t even call myself a chemist yet. I still have maturing to do.”

Beatty originally worked on a similar project in the fall, building a receptor for cations – which are positively charged instead of negatively charged, like anions. The team swapped the anion project when it became clear it was more promising than the cation receptor.

Beatty’s been doing work under the supervision of chemistry professor Dr. Cory Beshara since last May, honing her synthetic chemistry skills in preparation for grad school.

The Québec conference will bring her even closer to that goal.

Beatty attended last year’s conference in Calgary, which opened her eyes to both study and career possibilities.

“It’s like an ice-cream parlour. You can try chocolate, vanilla – you know,” she explains with a laugh. “Anything from medicinal chemistry to inorganic to polymer – any field of chemistry is there for you to take a taste of.”

This year she expects the experience will be even better, since she’s presenting her own work.

She had practice at UFV’s poster presentations as part of Student Research Day last week, and next week she’ll be heading to Trinity Western University to do the same.

“It’ll kind of show where I rank with other undergrads of chemistry and synthetic chemistry, because at UFV there isn’t too much of a competition in terms of chemistry,” she notes. “To actually see other chemistry students and see how they present their poster and what results they’re getting [will] be a good kind of test to see how I should improve for the conference.”

SUS approved a motion to fund Beatty at their last regular board meeting, and their donation will cover roundtrip airfare as well as hostel fees and a sum for meals.

With funding taken care of, Beatty can focus on completing the project – and combating her own nervousness.

“I’m kind of nervous for [the conference], but I’m more excited. And I just feel so happy to get the money, because obviously that was the hindrance,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to see what other people are doing, get ideas, collaborate with other people … this is a good place to advertise yourself.”

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