A Postcard From: Ami Okazaki ’18

Name: Ami Okazaki
Class Year: 2018
Major: Chemistry
Hometown: San Jose, Calif.

Internship Placement: Bryn Mawr College Chemistry Department
Job Title: Student Researcher
Location: Bryn Mawr College

What’s happening at your internship?

I’m working in an organic chemistry lab that focuses on the development of new and efficient methodologies used to synthesize larger compounds out of simple molecules. Our field of research looks into processes called palladium cross-coupling and mono-gamma-arylation, which are unique methods used to attach a small molecule (an aryl group) to a specific location (gamma position) of another molecule (vinylogous ester or ketone). The challenges we face in this project involve controlling the regioselectivity (where the aryl group binds) and reactivity of the chemistry. I work on optimizing the conditions used to run these reactions so that we and other researchers in the field can synthesize the target products while forming minimal side products. So far, I’ve been probing the scope and limitations of our reaction conditions using a wide range of substrates with electron donating and electron withdrawing groups on the aryl substrate. The products of the reactions are first detected using gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy, and then I isolate the products using extraction, thin-layer chromatography, column chromatography, and rotary evaporation. Lastly, I characterize the purified products through melting point, proton and carbon NMR, and FTIR spectroscopy. By the end of the summer, we hope to have a better understanding of the optimal palladium-catalyzed reaction conditions that can be used for our specific method of creating new molecules.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I enjoyed working in the same lab the previous summer. I also wanted to live on campus because it’s so quiet and serene, and the city is just a train ride away.

What has been your favorite part of this internship?

The good balance between work, study, and fun. I’m enjoying my summer by being around a familiar campus, lab, and people here at Bryn Mawr while also tackling unfamiliar challenges and techniques in the labwork. It’s really rewarding looking back and seeing how much I’ve grown as a student researcher and individual compared to the previous summer, and acknowledging that the journey wouldn’t have been possible without the resources and support from the college and mentors, both old and new.

Can you give us three adjectives and three nouns that describe your internship experience?

challenging, uncertain, persistent

optimization, application, spectroscopy