Student Research Spotlight: Cory Williams


August PeliccioGeneral Assignment Reporter

Adiel Coca, an organic chemistry professor at SCSU, oversees research for three students this semester, for whom he is thesis sponsor. Cory Williams, a chemistry student, is working toward the goal of developing a new class of antibiotics.

Coca has been with Southern for 10 years and all along the way he has been supervising student research.

“In the last couple of years, I’ve been moving more toward developing antibiotics,” Coca said, “so that is what is common among the research projects of all my students.”

Williams is performing research for his thesis in order to move on to medical school after he graduates. His first choice is Yale, but he will apply to UConn and Quinnipiac too. He is even open to going out of state, to NYU, or Harvard, but he said he would really like to stay local and remain in CT.

“I’ve always been interested in medicine and enhancing the scientific community in general,” Williams said.

His work this semester concerns a variety of cyclic boron compounds called oxazaborolidines.

“Oxazaborolidines are characterized by being a heterocyclic compound containing a boron, nitrogen and oxygen,” Williams said. “Once synthesized, purified and characterized, these compounds will be used as precursors for a cross-coupling reaction known as the Suzuki-Miyaura Cross Coupling reaction.”

Coca said that this reaction, more commonly referred to as the “Suzuki reaction,” is very important to the field of chemistry. According to the Nobel Prize organization’s website, Akira Suzuki was awarded a Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2010 for his research of the reaction. Suzuki’s page on the Nobel Prize website says that the reaction involves using chemical compounds that contain carbon to synthesize otherwise organic substances.

“We’re trying to broaden what the reaction can do,” said Coca.

Williams said that if the compounds he will synthesize work as precursors in the Suzuki reaction, it would in fact broaden the scope of the reaction significantly.

Other than his work specifically focused on the Suzuki reaction, Williams said his research would aid in developing an entirely new class of antibiotics.

“We’ve synthesized several compounds so far,” Williams said, “and what we’re trying to do is test them against several cell lines of bacteria, and see if anything comes back positive for biological activity with the compounds.”

According to Williams, compounds with boron-nitrogen bonds in previous studies have shown biological activity, so the compounds he will be synthesizing are excellent candidates.

“There haven’t been many studies on the compounds I’m working with,” said Williams. Because of this, he said his work will be important on a future resume, and may even be published.

“If all goes as planned,” Williams said, “my results from this research project would be published to well-known scientific journals such as The Journal of Organic Chemistry, Tetrahedron Letters and Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.”

Even if he is not successful in developing a new class of antibiotics, Williams said that if he can show that the compounds he is working with demonstrate any of the activity he expects them to, he will be successful in composing a good research paper.

Photo Credit: August Peliccio

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