Research by GWU Alumnus, Jeremy Griffin, Published in Top Chemistry Journals

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Chemistry and Biology Major Will Speak on Campus in February 

Laboratory work that is tedious to some students fascinates Jeremy Griffin, a 2013 graduate of Gardner-Webb University. Griffin is a doctoral student in chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He will be speaking about his research and graduate school experiences at 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, in Room 117, GWU Laboratory Center.

Griffin discovered his interest in investigating molecules and compounds while preparing for pharmacy school. “I started taking my prerequisite courses at GWU, and found that I was much more interested in chemistry,” reflected Griffin, a Vale, N.C., native. “Dr. Ben Brooks helped me make the connection that the study of chemistry is the study of how things in the universe work on a fundamental level. I chose organic chemistry because I liked the idea of being able to make new chemical compounds, and I have always enjoyed working with my hands.”

As a member of Dr. David Nicewicz’s team at Chapel Hill, Griffin seeks to develop methods for constructing chemical bonds. His research allows chemists to synthesize new chemical compounds, such as pharmaceutical drugs. His findings from two separate studies were published in the top chemistry journals in the world: “The Journal of the American Chemical Society” and “Angewandte Chemie International Edition.” When he finishes his doctorate next spring, he will begin a post-doctoral research fellowship with Dr. Matt Sigman at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Griffin chose Gardner-Webb because its size gave him a chance to interact closely with professors and classmates. “Chemistry, like most other sciences, requires a strong theoretical foundation in order to succeed at higher levels,” Griffin observed. “The courses at GWU prepared me by helping me to build that foundation. I was able to ask questions about more advanced topics outside of classes because my professors were always available. Courses at GWU challenged me to become more independent, and learn about things that I was interested in, not just because they were required by my professors.”

As GWU’s first Undergraduate Research Scholar, Griffin developed his research skills by asking the question: What makes ginger products so pungent? Working with his mentor, GWU Associate Professor of Biology Dr. David Judge, Griffin compared two methods of extracting the chemicals from ginger ales. His work won the first-place presentation prize for chemistry at the North Carolina Academy of Science’s annual meeting. He also received the Stefka Eddins Undergraduate Research Award from GWU for excellence in a student/faculty collaborative project. “Dr. Judge helped me to sharpen my skills in experimentation, and under his guidance, I learned how to become an independent scientist,” he concluded. “He helped me to critically think about a problem and ask questions about what interested me.”

After obtaining his doctorate, Griffin’s goal is to become a research chemist. His advice for students considering a career in science is to develop patience. “Science can be a very rewarding field because you can explore something that no one else has ever thought about studying in the same way,” he described. “However, science also requires careful thinking in order to design a successful experiment. You need to be very creative, open minded, and persistent in the pursuit of your ideas.”