Penn State Berks student completes NSF research experience in synthesis studies

By Lisa Baldi
December 16, 2015

READING, Pa. -- Penn State Berks biochemistry and molecular biology major Katelyn Leets completed a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University at Syracuse-SUNY in August 2015. Her research was titled “Synthesis Studies of Kapakahine C,” and focused on creating a molecule that has demonstrated anti-leukemia properties. 

Leets explained that Kapakahines are marine-derived natural products isolated from a South Pacific sponge in trace quantities that have shown anti-leukemia potential. Past studies have been slowed by Kapakahines' lack of availability, making synthesis necessary for study.

She had an opportunity to describe her research through a poster presentation to the Syracuse Science Division and to write a paper that was submitted for publication to the National Science Foundation. She will present her research at the 2016 Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM in Washington, D.C., Feb. 25-27, 2016, and at the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting in San Diego, California, March 13-17, 2016.

“The NSF-REU experience was a great way to gain experience doing organic synthesis research,” states Leets, who is currently a senior at Penn State Berks.

She will continue her research in the 2015-16 academic year with Lorena Tribe, associate professor of chemistry at Penn State Berks. Together, they are currently working to determine the compound used in tests that indicates when formaldehyde is present in the manufacture of clothing.

Leets is a third-year member and current vice president of the Penn State Berks Chapter of the American Chemical Society, contributing to the group’s success in receiving multiple national awards in both community service programming and green chemistry. She is a chemistry teaching assistant and works part time as a laboratory assistant in the college’s chemistry labs, as well as working part time at Suburban Testing Labs in Reading. She plans to continue her studies toward a doctorate in chemistry with the goal of working in government or industry as a synthetic chemist, eventually obtaining a teaching position.

The NSF is an independent federal agency created by Congress to promote the progress of science; advance the nation’s health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense. The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals, and scientific conferences. 

  • Katelyn in lab

    Penn State Berks Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major Katelyn Leets completed a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University at Syracuse-SUNY in August 2015.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated December 17, 2015