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Alyssa Kattan represents Midwood High School and Brooklyn College at the 47th annual MARM

Posted on Friday, May 31, 2019 by for Everyone.

I was not aware when I started working for Dr. Alexander Greer that he'd soon be shipping me off to present at out-of-state chemistry conventions, but it came as a welcome surprise.

I started working at Dr. Greer's organic photochemistry lab at Brooklyn College in February of 2019. A late start, but a start nonetheless. In the lab, I work on the synthesis and characterization of fluorinated alkyl chain pterins. Essentially, we're trying to construct a photosensitizer using pterin and a fluorous tag that can produce singlet oxygen in a biphasic system. A biphasic system is a heterogeneous solution with an interface that mimics a cell membrane, and singlet oxygen is a reactive oxygen species notorious for disrupting basic cellular function. The production of singlet oxygen within this "cell" creates a means of studying the mobility of cytotoxins within living systems, a novel concept that we coin "fluorous biphasic photocatalysis".

"Marm" became part of my vocabulary in late March, when the word first started to flit around the lab. Time (and meetings) taught me that "Marm" was not actually a word but rather an acronym — as in the Middle Atlantic Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society — and apparently, I was supposed to go.

The American Chemical Society is a national organization that seeks to unite chemists in order to advance chemistry. The regional meetings are opportunities for chemists from all over the United States to come together and share their research, almost exclusively at the collegiate and professional level. This year, MARM was being held at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (a.k.a. UMBC). My professor told me that he wanted me to present my research at the convention, so I bought a blazer and off to Baltimore I went.

Sarah, a doctoral candidate presenting her own pterin research, and I were the only two representatives from Brooklyn College. I was the only high schooler at the event, which was just mildly terrifying. The convention attracted lots of local Baltimoreans, granting me the opportunity to present to some Johns Hopkins University professors — a real treat. Chatting with a few of the tech vendors that came out to market their newest products was another highlight; a gentleman from Magritek tried selling me on a benchtop NMR spectrometer, but I'm not really in the market right now.

Overall, presenting at MARM was an absolute honor. It pushed me out of my comfort zone just enough to create an experience that was equally as thrilling as it was rewarding. More importantly, I was able to gain much-valued exposure to the world of collegiate research and beyond. I'm grateful to Dr. Greer not only for trusting me enough to represent the lab, but for allowing me to take Midwood Science on a little field trip south of the (Brooklyn) border.

Written by Alyssa Kattan (Class of 2020)

Student presenting her poster to a conference participant
Excerpt from the official program ACS member café and lounge. ACS: Chemistry for life.