Campus / News / Student Research / January 26, 2011

The chemistry of honors

Senior Carolyn Baird is a chemistry major joining a Ford Fellowship project into her Honors project. The title of her project is “Utilizing the Belousov-Zhabotinsky Reaction as an Analytical Technique.”

The Knox Student (TKS): That’s some title! What does it mean?

Carolyn Baird (CB): The Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction is the most well known oscillating reaction. So basically, when I detect it on the computer, it looks like waves. You can interrupt the oscillations by perturbing the reaction—adding a substance, in this case ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)—and the change you see in the oscillations is proportional to the amount of ascorbic acid you put in.

TKS: What are you working on?

CB: I started this summer. I had a Ford Fellowship and I started a new system based on previous research done by Roger T. Echols. It utilizes UV/VIS spectroscopy to detect changes in the oscillating reaction. So after I developed this new system, I optimized the BZ reaction for the system. Now I am in the process of perturbing the BZ reaction with various concentrations of ascorbic acid.

TKS: How did you come up with your project?

CB: I had talked to my research advisor a little bit last spring when I was doing a Ford Fellowship and we decided it would be a fun project for the summer. Then it turned into my Honors project. At first it seemed like just another day in the lab, but now I actually enjoy oscillating reactions.

TKS: What makes your project important?

CB: Echols looked at using UV detection for the BZ reaction in the 1990s, but his research was inconclusive. My preliminary data has shown good results. Hopefully, this can be expanded on in the future and make the UV/VIS detection a more utilized technique in this field.

TKS: How are you balancing Honors with everything else?

CB: It’s not balanced. This term, I’m taking P-chem and biochem. I don’t sleep much. It did help that I was able to start my research over the summer with the Ford Fellowship. Winter term, I do have other responsibilities on top of Honors, so that cuts down further on my time.

Maya Sharma

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