SAFE Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Nicholas Shaw
Dr. Nicholas Shaw, associate professor, research mentor, Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) fund recipient
Project: “Proving Nano-Reactor Technology Commercial Viability: Synthesizing Aspartame”
Funding from the SAFE Grant helped Shaw achieve two key goals of his research project “Proving Nano-Reactor Technology Commercial Viability: Synthesizing Aspartame”. The funds allowed him to complete preliminary experimentation that was used to secure an external Flash Grant from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and apply for an additional funding fellowship through SciFounders.
The money from the SAFE grant was also used to support the efforts of six undergraduate research assistants. Not only did this money purchase the necessary components for experimentation, two of these students have decided to pursue doctoral studies in chemistry as a response to the transformative nature of this experience.
The students who participated on Shaw’s research group included
Megan Pike ('22) - Will pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry beginning Fall 2022.
Lindsay Vaughn ('22) - Will pursue her Pharm.D. beginning Fall 2023.
Sarah Altman ('22) - Will pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry beginning Fall 2022.
Emma McGibbany ('23) - Starting mid-fielder Women's Soccer Team.
Monica Burciu ('22) - Will attend a post baccalaureate medical school program beginning Fall 2022.
Elizabeth Haslan ('23) - Will pursue her Pharm.D. beginning Fall 2023.
Anderson Noonat ('23) - Will pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry beginning Fall 2023.
Graham Aldridge ('21) - Will attend UNC Adams School of Dentistry at The University of North Carolina beginning Fall 2022
Jake Rodgers ('23) - Will pursue a MD beginning Fall 2023.
Matthew Bonacci ('22) - Will pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry beginning Fall 2022.
Carson Shivers ('23) - Will pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry beginning Fall 2023.
Sara Palega (honorary member)
Following rigorous training, the research assistants are asked to design and execute their experiments, collect and analyze the data and use their results to perpetuate the scientific cycle.
“Students that embrace this opportunity are quick to thrive in this environment,” said Shaw.
Students that thrive in this environment become well trained scientists capable of independently producing publication worthy results, fully prepared to be successful in their career endeavors moving forward.
“My research group has invented nano-reactor technology that allows us to facilitate chemical reactions with greater efficiency than traditional methods. As a trained synthetic chemist, I became frustrated with the traditional methods used to synthesize molecules. For example, traditional synthetic reactions often take hours if not days to complete and often afford nominal amounts of desired product (60% yield is considered good).
When facilitating these same reactions with our nano-reactors we are able to achieve near quantitative (99+%) yield in mere minutes. Currently we seek to explore the use of these nano-reactors in the synthesis of chemically important molecules (drugs, biodiesel fuels, personal care products and molecular probes). We believe our technology is capable of disrupting current synthetic practices,” explained Shaw.
Ultimately, the work in Shaw’s laboratory is focused on commercialization of the technology the group has developed. SAFE funding has allowed Shaw to conduct imperative value proposition experimentation to engage investors and eventually start a company.
About the SAFE Fund
Initially endowed by Hughlene and Bill Frank, the College of Arts and Sciences Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund provides resources that can be used to support undergraduate, graduate and faculty experiences. The SAFE Fund provides funding for college priorities and opportunities that arise throughout the year. These unrestricted funds support student and faculty travel, publication support for faculty and student research opportunities. Learn more at: https://cas.appstate.edu/students/student-and-faculty-excellence-safe-fund.
About the A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
The A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences offers a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry, a Bachelor of Science in chemistry with eight different concentrations and an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science degree in fermentation sciences. The department’s programs prepare students to attend graduate and professional schools, as well as for employment in the pharmaceutical and fermentation industries and other business sectors. Learn more at https://chemistry.appstate.edu.
Compiled and written by Sophia Woodall
April 7, 2021