Molecule Maker Wins Undergrad Research Award

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A Harvey Mudd College chemistry and biology joint major, who has established “a remarkably direct and flexible approach to a whole class of beautiful and medicinally relevant compounds,” received The Claremont Colleges Library Undergraduate Research Award.

Eun Bin Go received the senior award in the sciences for her research on “Synthesis of the Tetracyclic Scaffolds of the Endiandric Acids through Iterative Cross-Coupling,” which she undertook with Harvey Mudd Associate Professor of Chemistry David Vosburg. In his remarks during the award ceremony, Vosburg lauded Go for her work, which should provide access to antimalarial, antibacterial, antitubercular and anti-inflammatory natural products found in plants.

“I didn’t know anything about the tetracyclic scaffolds when I joined Prof. Vosburg’s lab in my sophomore year, but I slowly learned as I spent time in lab and saw the work that was being done by more experienced students,” said Go. “One thing I appreciate about Harvey Mudd is its support for undergraduate research experience, and it is not difficult for students to develop a strong understanding of their research topics, which they may not initially know much about.”

She pursued research during several academic years and a summer at Harvey Mudd and during a summer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, learning different approaches to making molecules.

“Eun Bin designed and executed a remarkably creative and successful senior thesis project, making two complex, medicinally interesting molecules,” said Vosburg. “Neither of these compounds had ever been made before. Facing challenges that my research group has struggled with for nearly 10 years, she generated independent strategies to approach her targets and took complete intellectual ownership of the project. Some of the major chemical methods she employed have appeared in Nature Chemistry in 2014 and most recently in the cover story for Science on March 13 of this year. The goal of this approach is to make building complex molecules as easy as assembling Lego blocks. Using the general methods developed by Marty Burke’s group at the University of Illinois, Eun Bin successfully applied them to an even more challenging case. As a result, she now has established a remarkably direct and flexible approach to a whole class of beautiful and medicinally relevant compounds.”

Go will return to New York City for the Tri-Institutional PhD program in Chemical Biology, a graduate program offered jointly by Weill Cornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Rockefeller University that focuses on research at the interface of chemistry and biology. “There, I hope to apply small organic molecules in studying important biological problems, like mechanisms of pathogenesis/tumorigenesis and drug resistance,” said Go, who recently received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship honorable mention.

The Claremont Colleges Library Undergraduate Research Award recognizes the importance of the scholar’s research journey from initial idea to final destination. Vosburg remarked, “The Claremont Colleges Library’s access to electronic databases and online journal articles was crucial for Eun Bin’s planning of strategy and tactics as well as determining the identity of every new molecule she made—putting her in a very good position for a likely first-author publication even before she begins her PhD.”

Additionally, as part of Harvey Mudd literature Professor Jeff Groves’ hand-press printing class, Go utilized the library’s 19th-century Columbian press to produce the title page of her thesis.

Winning work of all the awardees is showcased in the Honnold/Mudd Library and online in Scholarship@Claremont: Undergraduate Research Award, communicating the high quality of Claremont undergraduate scholarship worldwide.