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Senior Praises 'Hands-On Educational Experience Unlike Any Other'

David Siler, Class of 2008, says undergraduate research helped pave the way for his future in organic chemistry.

Date: 4/11/2008
By: Britt Kennerly
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Britt Kennerly
David Siler remembers the days when he was "bumping around" and "afraid to touch anything" in a chemistry lab.

Now, the young scientist moves confidently not only around the lab, but toward a June graduation and the pursuit of a PhD in organic chemistry at Princeton University. He also looks back with pride at what he's accomplished during his years in McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.

"The education I've received here is very good from what I've seen as I've taken a couple of graduate courses, I'm prepared for what's ahead," says Siler, a native of Morrow, Ohio.

David Siler will graduate in June 2008 with a degree in organic chemistry.

What's ahead for Siler just might be beneficial, too, for anyone who has ever worried about harmful pathogens in food and water.

Remember, for example, the widespread and heavily reported E. coli outbreaks of 2006? Siler works on synthetic compounds which have the potential to be used in toxin-detecting biosensors. 

"The far-end goal is to build a sensor that utilizes our compounds to allow more rapid detection of toxins in samples, a sensor which could be used quickly out in the field," says Siler, a member of Suri Iyer's research group.

His McMicken peers and mentors have been great, says Siler, who worked closely with second-year graduate student Dan Lewallen.

"The grad students are excellent and very helpful," Siler says. Dr. Iyer is "very creative and he's excited about the chemistry we do here He talked me into working in supplemental instruction with the Learning Assistance Center, and that really helped improve my understanding of organic chemistry tremendously."

Siler's skills definitely stand out, says Bruce Ault, director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Chemistry.

"David was placed as an intern in a local firm last summer, and was so outstanding for them that they have been pleading for 'another David Siler' this summer," Ault notes.

Siler, the first person in his immediate family to graduate from college, is grateful for the research opportunities he's taken part in while at UC.

"By participating in undergraduate research, I have been given a hands-on educational experience unlike any other," says Siler, whose poster presentation took first prize at the 2007 Kentuckiana Undergraduate Research Symposium.

"I have been able to utilize state of the art equipment and techniques to synthesize molecules never made before. I have been shown what it is like to work in an academic research setting, and this has motivated me to continue my education in graduate school."

There won't be much video game time for this self-described "computer nerd," who also likes to play guitar, after graduation. He and his wife, Heather, will be moving to New Jersey during the two weeks he'll have before starting classes at Princeton.

"I don't see a lot of downtime," he says. "But I'm excited about seeing a different part of the country. It's going to be an entirely new setting, and that's pretty cool."

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