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Student wins national chemistry research award

Amy Kallmerten, a graduate student in Northeastern University’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, has received CEM Corporation’s 2009 M.J. Collins Award for outstanding research by a student in the field of microwave chemistry. The award, presented to one researcher each year, recognizes her research and innovative laboratory techniques.

Kallmerten received the award this week at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C. She and her academic sponsor Dr. Graham Jones, professor and chair of Northeastern’s department of chemistry and chemical biology, share a $10,000 cash prize. The pair currently employs microwave chemistry in projects involving investigational drugs. Among her many accomplishments, Kallmerten incorporated a new microwave-accelerated laboratory method into a Parkinson’s disease research project being conducted by 45 undergraduates at Northeastern.

“Amy’s dedication to furthering microwave chemistry research and implementing contemporary techniques into the curriculum is highly commendable,” said Jones. “Her work at Northeastern exemplifies the enthusiasm needed to have a profound and sustained impact in the field.”

Kallmerten’s research focuses on using microwave technology to prepare drugs whose distribution throughout the body can be monitored. The microwave method chemically synthesizes drugs that incorporate a small dose of radioactivity. Imaging such as positron emission tomography (PET scans) can then show where and how the drug has dispersed. Conventional methods are often cumbersome, inefficient and slow, says Jones.

Kallmerten has adapted nearly every project in Jones’s laboratory to the more rapid microwave method. Because it is faster, the microwave method better safeguards the integrity of the drugs—allowing preparation for dosing before they begin to decay substantially, a major limitation of conventional synthesis methods, explains Jones.

The award is named after Michael J. Collins, founder, CEO and president of CEM Corporation, a leading provider of microwave laboratory instrumentation. Collins advocates microwave energy for applications ranging from organic chemistry to compositional testing, and supports development of new applications for the technology. Collins cited Kallmerten’s “steadfast curiosity and enthusiasm for science,” calling her “an extremely talented chemist who has a very bright future ahead” with “a great deal to contribute to the advancement of chemistry.”

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