Holy Trinity students work on research projects at FIT


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How did you spend your summer? Seven students —six from Holy Trinity and a seventh who is a former Holy Trinity student — took part in a computational chemistry research project in the Olson Research Laboratories in the Chemistry Department at the Florida Institute of Technology.

VIERA VOICE Courtesy of Michelle Salyer

Working on a project at the Florida Institute of Technology during the summer might have helped Holy Trinity senior Chris Farid decide what he wants to study in college.

Farid was one of five Holy Trinity students who spent five weeks working on a research project in the Olson Research Laboratories in the Chemistry Department at the Florida Institute of Technology.

The course was titled “Computational Modeling for Rational Molecular Design” and was under the direction of Associate Professor Joel Olson.

It was designed to “introduce the student to modern approaches of computational chemistry, as well as issues and methods for molecular design.”

It was the computational part of the project that really caught Farid’s eye.

“The amazing thing is it wasn’t a traditional experiment,” he said. “It was all on the computer. It was all through (the Spartan) program. It was just mind-boggling how a program can understand a chemical reaction.”

Farid, along with Holy Trinity students John Ganiban, Kyle Go, Eamon Brennan, Hari Dandapani — and former Holy Trinity student Siddarth Ranganath — used tryptanthrin as their study subject. Tryptanthrin is known to be an anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic and anti-bacterial and can also prevent angiogenesis.

“What we were trying to do was understand how it’s formed so we can replicate it more easily to reap its benefits,” Farid said. “What we would do is take a nitrate group and pose it against the tryptanthrin molecule at different distances and different positions.

“Tryptanthrin only nitrates at position eight, but there are 12 positions. So we were trying to understand why it only goes to position eight. We would pose the molecule and bring it closer and closer to the tryptanthrin molecule to simulate how the energies would react. By doing that, we would see an energy graph as you would see in a normal chemical reaction.

“We wanted to see if the energy reaction would be the least in position eight, which would justify why it goes to position eight. That was the main goal of the project.”

The group presented their findings at Florida Tech’s Engineering Building last month. Although they did not ultimately achieve their goal — perhaps because they were only using a 90-degree angle — they did find success in the second part of the nitration reaction using the H2SO4 molecule.

“In that step, it actually preferred position eight with the energies,” Farid said. “So while we didn’t prove why (it preferred) position eight in the first step of the reaction, in the second step of the reaction it actually did what we were looking for.”

This was the fourth year Holy Trinity has partnered with Florida Tech to allow students to work on an exclusive guided research opportunity.

Another Holy Trinity student, Cameron Walcott, took a marketing research course entitled, “Crossroads: Strategy, Business Plan Research and Career Possibilities” under the direction of professor Keiron Hylton.

Farid enjoyed working on his project so much, it could very well impact what his future area of study will be.

“Like Dr. Olson said, it’s kind of tedious while you’re doing the research, but it’s amazing to see the results,” he said. “I was thinking about research in college, and I actually find it pretty interesting. You can see the results of something you did.

“I’m probably going to pursue research in college.”