Two Linfield College science graduates publish research

Evan Carlson '15 and Kevin Romero '15Two recent Linfield College graduates – Evan Carlson and Kevin Romero – are part of scientific teams that published research findings in top chemistry publications.

Carlson, of Medford, who earned a degree in chemistry, is a co-author on a paper featured in the Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids – “Detection of 4’, 6-diamidino-2-phenylindole within silver-doped silica sol- and aerogels using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy.” The research was completed in the Linfield Chemistry Department and co-authored by Elizabeth J.O. Atkinson and Brian Gilbert, both associate professors of chemistry. The purpose of the research was to find a small molecule, 4’, 6-diamindino-2-phenylindole (DAPI), within silica sol-gels and aerogels, which are porous, glass-like solids.

“What’s most interesting to me is the synthesis of the gels themselves,” he said. “Several different liquids get mixed together, but after a short time you’re left with a solid instead.”

Carlson said Atkinson and Gilbert deepened his education at Linfield by giving him the research opportunities and supporting his travel to present the work at conferences, including three national meetings of the American Chemical Society. In addition to honing his research and lab skills, he has learned firsthand how the publishing process works. Having the opportunity to co-author a peer-reviewed article as an undergraduate will help him as he begins to apply to graduate school. But he’s also learned another important lesson.

“Research has helped me learn to fail,” Carlson said. “In course labs, things usually work because it has all been done before. But in research, things don’t always go as planned. I’m glad to have had these failures to better deal with problems with future projects.”

In addition to science skills, Carlson said his Linfield education has given him an understanding of a wide variety of subjects and how those subjects influence and apply to one another.

After graduation, he plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in applied chemistry through research or working in the industry.

Romero, of Reno, Nev., who earned a degree in chemistry and mathematics, co-authored along with a group from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology “Solid Lewis acids catalyze the carbon-carbon coupling between carbohydrates and formaldehyde” in ACS Catalysis.

His research was conducted as part of the 2014 summer REU internship co-hosted by the Materials Processing Center and the Center for Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. Romero worked in the Roman group in the Chemical Engineering Department looking at efficient and renewable ways to produce pharmaceutical chemicals from biomass starting materials.

The research interested Romero because the purpose of it is to help move away from petroleum dependency.

“The main thing I learned in doing research is how to approach science from a professional perspective,” Romero said. “Every day is something new and exciting, but a high level of creativity, thought and detail goes in to each experiment.”

He spent the summer of 2013 at Northwestern University in their REU program hosted by the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center as a part of the school’s iGEM team, where they engineered bacteria to detect and respond to acidic environments.

At Linfield, Romero has also been involved in research with Professors Brian Gilbert, Elizabeth J.O. Atkinson and Jim Diamond, studying molecular modeling techniques to better understand important bio-molecules, including the potential anti-cancer drug JQ1. He said it was with their support that he applied for and was accepted into the REU programs.

Romero praised the Linfield Chemistry Department, crediting each faculty member for mentoring and helping him achieve his educational goals.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned at Linfield is how to bring together multiple perspectives and thoughts in order to accomplish a common goal,” he said. “This is necessary since collaboration is a major component of research.”

After graduation, Romero plans to pursue a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Michigan and hopes to teach in a small college setting, similar to Linfield.