A student in his junior year at the University of Texas, Arlington, has combined his love for chemistry with his belief in the importance of environmental sustainability, and will be receiving support from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for his education and studies into “green chemistry.”
John Gurak, one of nearly 40 scholars in the country to receive the EPA National Center for Environmental Research’s 2-year undergraduate fellowship, will be teaming up with UT Arlington assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry Frank Foss in a study that seeks to incorporate riboflavin or vitamin B2, in oxidative reactions as a metal-free catalyst to produce heterocyclic compounds. These compounds have many uses and play key roles in pharmaceutical development and manufacturing of materials. The fellowship will be funding $50,000 worth of tuition, books, lab materials, travel costs, and other student expenses. Gurak will also be attending a lab internship in the summer of 2014.
“John Gurak is one of our brightest undergraduates and his involvement in Dr. Foss’ laboratory is a great example of the early, hands-on research experiences that create great scientists … We are proud to have him.” - Rasika Dias, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and chair of the department.
According to Gurk and Foss, many industries’ chemical processes demand high amounts of energy and utilizing catalysts in chemical reactions have been proven to be costly, difficult to obtain, and not good for the environment. They will be developing catalysts modified to function in room temperature and maximize readily available oxygen – falling under a new field of expertise called “green chemistry,” which entails creating chemical processes that do not necessitate the use or production of dangerous substances.