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Chemistry students co-author major study in a top science journal

February 24, 2010

  • News Image
    Marie Lafortune '10, Lila Forte B.A. '09, and Irena Bierzynski '11
  • News Image
    Lila Forte B.A. '09 and Marie Lafortune '10

A study co-authored by three Lewis & Clark students appears in the February 24 edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Lila Forte B.A. ’09, Marie Lafortune ’10, and Irena Bierzynski ’11 conducted the study with Professor of Chemistry Jim Duncan. A collaborative effort from its very inception, the project dates back to February 2008, when Forte drafted a research proposal under Duncan’s guidance.

“I had suggested a broad topic for Lila to research, asking her to look up everything that was known about the topic of so-called ‘pseudopericyclic reactions’ and propose how we might demonstrate one using the computational method in which we specialize,” Duncan said. “She came up with what I considered to be such a great idea that I suggested that she and Marie work on it as their Rogers’ research project during the summer of 2008. Remarkably, within two or three weeks that summer, Lila and Marie had demonstrated the viability of the idea. Lila went on to pursue it further for her honors in chemistry thesis, and then Irena completed the research in the summer of 2009.”

The team’s article, titled “CASSCF Molecular Orbital Calculations Reveal a Purely Pseudopericyclic Mechanism for a [3,3] Sigmatropic Rearrangement,” appeared online in January.

Duncan assisted the group in writing the study, but said the students performed all the calculations themselves.

“They used high-level computational methods, such as CASSCF, to uncover a novel pseudopericyclic rearrangement reaction with two orbital disconnections,” Duncan said. “Pseudopericyclic rearrangements involve cyclic transition states in which there is at least one orbital disconnection in an otherwise orbitally connected, in other words pericyclic, array of interacting orbitals.”