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College of Science and Mathematics

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Cal Poly Chemistry Students Win Statewide Research Competition

May 16, 2011

students and professor in Fresno

Melanie Miller, Professor Eric Kantorowski, and Kellan
Candee after their research conference victory

SAN LUIS OBISPO – Two Cal Poly Chemistry students took first place for their research project on molecule ring bonds in the annual California State University Research Competition.

Undergraduate students Kellan Candee from Paso Robles and Melanie Miller from Fremont were awarded first place in the physical and mathematical sciences category for their research investigating the reactions of strained molecules. An understanding of the behavior of these compounds could lead to the development of new methods for making organic molecules with pharmacological and therapeutic benefits. Their faculty advisor was Professor Eric Kantorowski.

"Our original research interest was to see if we could achieve a 1-carbon ring expansion event by fusing a cyclopropane (3-membered carbon ring) to a larger ring and then exposing the compound to an electrophile (an electron deficient species). We started with this larger ring being 5 members, with the intent to vary this to 6 or 7 members in the future," said Candee.

However, the duo found that no ring expansion was occurring at all and the molecule instead took on an unexpected rearrangement. "Even with this unexpected result, we plan to continue research by changing variables," Candee said.

Each Spring more than 200 students representing the 23 campuses of the CSU system gather to present the results of their original research, scholarship and creative work to panels of judges. All participants were first nominated by their respective colleges, and then selected in a preliminary competition at Cal Poly.  Final competitors submitted written papers and made oral presentations to juries of experts.

A team of 10 Cal Poly students represented the university at the 25th annual competition held on May 6 and 7 at Fresno State. The Cal Poly students' projects ranged from an exploration of the roots of the Wright Brothers’ inventiveness, to a mathematical solution for non-invasive detection of melanoma, and a non-toxic coating to prevent corrosion in metal structures.

In addition to Candee and Miller, Cal Poly's research offerings earned one other first-place award. Victor Sanchez Escalera, a graduate student from Visalia, took first place in the engineering and computer science category for his research on using thin infill panels to reinforce steel buildings prone to the progressive collapse seen in catastrophic failures such as the World Trade Center and the federal building in Oklahoma.

Aubrey Smith, a graduate student from Folsom, received a second-place award in the health, nutrition, and clinical sciences division for her research examining a method for testing intravascular devices such as the stents used to prop open arteries that have been blocked by atherosclerosis. Her bench-top method uses mimics of human arteries grown from pig blood vessels to test the effectiveness of the devices before implantation into humans.

Also representing Cal Poly were biomedical engineering graduate student Ricky Hennessy; undergraduate physics students Grant Olson and Galen Cauble; industrial engineering graduate student Ronald Sloat; graduate history student Daniel Slusser; and graduate polymers and coatings student Greg Strange.



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