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Andrew DuncanAndrew Duncan

Chemistry Professor Andrew Duncan (left) works with a student in the lab.Chemistry Professor Andrew Duncan (left) works with a student in the lab.

    Chemistry Professor Wins New Investigator Grant

    Andrew Duncan, assistant professor of chemistry, has been awarded a $50,000 Undergraduate New Investigator Grant from the American Chemical Society-Petroleum Research Fund.

    The grant program supports fundamental research in the petroleum and energy fields and the development of the next generation of engineers and scientists through support of advanced scientific education. The grants help initiate the research program of faculty members at undergraduate research institutions and provide financial incentives for students to be involved in real-world research activities leading to employment or continued graduate school study.

    Duncan’s grant will support a two-year research project, “Stereocontrolled Organocatalytic Synthesis of Oxacycles.” Some molecules possess mirror-image symmetry, existing in left- and right-handed forms. Duncan is developing a method for making these molecules that allows for precise control over their “handedness” during the synthetic process. The research primarily will contribute to the field of pharmaceutical synthesis.

    Many of the compounds organic chemists use as starting materials for pharmaceutical synthesis are derived from petrochemical feedstocks, just like gasoline. By helping make the synthetic process more efficient, Duncan’s project will make better use of limited petrochemical resources.

    Duncan’s students helped formulate the goals for the project, and they conduct most of the experimentation, as well as present the work at chemistry symposiums. “My research is an extension of my teaching,” Duncan says. “My students learn to do the science, think about the science and then present the science, which is excellent preparation for graduate school or any career that involves analytical problem-solving.”

    Since coming to Willamette in 2006, Duncan has received multiple research grants, including the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Faculty Start-up Award, a Research Corporation Cottrell College Science Award, two National Science Foundation awards, and an award from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Partners In Science Program, which he shared with Associate Professor Sarah Kirk.