Erin Martin, a junior chemistry major at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, was interested in learning about organic chemistry. Her discovery of Eike Bauer and his labs sparked her fascination with “green chemistry.”
Martin, a resident of Florissant, Mo., received a College of Arts and Sciences Research Grant. The college created a Research Grant Program this year in order to promote undergraduate research. A faculty and student review committee selected seven undergraduates to receive funds to help them complete their research activities.
Martin’s project, “Designing Iron Catalysts for Greener Chemical Reactions,” will be overseen by Bauer, assistant professor of chemistry at UMSL.
“The project Erin is working on is inspired by the principles of ‘green chemistry,’ which emphasize the need to develop new ways to create chemical products that are cleaner to manufacture and safer for people and the planet than those currently available,” he said. “Green chemistry is defined as ‘The invention, design and application of chemical products and processes to reduce or to eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances.’ Erin implements this philosophy by investigating catalysts for chemical reactions; catalysts increase the rate of chemical reactions and save energy, which eventually conserves natural resources and reduces toxic waste.”
UMSL Daily caught up with Martin recently to talk about his research and the grant program for the fourth of seven Q&As featuring grant recipients.
What is your research about?
The research I am performing is a defined part of a larger project being pursued by Bauer and his graduate students. The purpose of the project is to aid in the development of new catalysts that can in return make greener, safer chemical reactions possible. This will be achieved by analyzing the efficiency of each potential catalyst and hopefully determining what it is that makes them efficient. One of the things I enjoy most about research is the chance it gives to be a part of something worthwhile. The experience is indispensable, and the work itself allows me to further my own knowledge and interests while making a contribution that can be used outside of a classroom.
Why is this research important?
The chance for an undergraduate to participate in research is something that cannot be passed up. Not only does it better prepare you for the future, it poses questions that help you to grow and lets you explore different areas you may be interested in. Undergraduate research is certainly something that should be encouraged, but it might not always be feasible. The Research Grant Program can back great ideas that might otherwise never leave the ground, and makes it possible for more students to pursue their chosen path.
How do you feel about having this opportunity to do research as an undergraduate?
In all honestly, I chose chemistry for my major on a whim. I did not want to enter college undecided, and since I enjoyed my advanced placement chemistry class in high school, chemistry was what got put on the paper. Now I’m happy to say that I seem to have chosen correctly, because I continue to be fascinated by chemistry.
What do you hope to do after graduating from UMSL?
My future after UMSL is as of yet undecided, but there is a very high chance that I will follow up my undergraduate education with graduate school. I do plan to enter the industry eventually, and am currently trying to explore the various opportunities available through research and internships.