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Two Wesley Undergrads Win National Chemistry Awards

Posted June 6th, 2019 at 10:47am

Jeremy Wirick (Left) and Lily Neff (Right)

by Joy Drohan

Graduating senior Lily Neff won a National American Chemical Society (ACS) Undergraduate Award in the Division of Environmental Chemistry for her work on the implementation of an online chemical inventory platform at Wesley College. The platform, Quartzy, helps to manage chemical risks and safety compliance and measures cost-effectiveness in laboratory chemicals. Neff is the sixth Wesley student to earn this award.

Using Quartzy’s Effortless Quote System has brought the college savings of about $10,000–12,000 per year in chemicals, which has been cycled back into the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program. Using Quartzy decreased the amount of time undergraduate laboratory assistants spend on lab preparation. It also reduced the college’s environmental footprint through an increased efficiency in monitoring chemicals and their associated contaminants.

Neff also received the Delaware ACS Section Award for her STEM outreach contributions. She helped start Wesley’s Science Club, which presents science experiments with everyday materials at local elementary, middle, and high schools to inspire students’ interest in STEM fields.

Neff will now pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Jeremy Wirick, another graduating senior at Wesley, won a National ACS Undergraduate Award in the Division of Organic Chemistry. This is the first time that a Wesley undergraduate earns this award. He received this award for completing three organic chemistry research projects, one of which was published as a peer-reviewed journal article.

Wirick examined the effect of various chemical leaving groups found in common pharmaceutical precursors—compounds that go into drug manufacture—to see if the type of group changed the reaction rate or mechanism. The findings, Wirick said, open up more and faster possibilities for drug manufacture.

In the fall, Wirick will enter the doctoral pharmacy program at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.

Neff said that the opportunity to conduct research as an undergraduate helped her to discover her passions and strengths and gave her essential life skills and networking opportunities.

Wirick said that conducting real-life research helped immensely in understanding the organic chemistry he learned in class and helped him target his interests. His chemistry research lab skills directly translate into his job in a pathology lab this summer.

Neff and Wirick were supported by the National Science Foundation through the S-STEM (Cannon Scholars) and EPSCoR (WiCCED) programs, the NASA Delaware Space Grant Consortium, the National Institutes of Health-NIGMS-INBRE program, and the State of Delaware.