The Center for Sustainable Materials Science (CSMS), funded by a National Science Foundation EPSCoR grant, provides opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to engage in research. One of these students is Eric Serum, a doctoral graduate student majoring in Synthetic Organic Chemistry at North Dakota State University, who has worked alongside several undergraduates in Dr. Mukund Sibi’s CSMS research group to devise and develop optimal strategies for the synthesis, purification, and characterization of 2,5-bis(hydroxymethyl)furan, 5-hydroxymethylfurfural, 2,5-diformylfuran, 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid, 3,3’-fur-2,5-diylbis(acrylic acid) and their derivatives.
Eric’s central research theme focuses on the application of the Diels-Alder reaction to those biomass derived furans for the preparation of novel C1,C4-disubstituted-7-oxabenzonorbornadienes, which have been aromatized in our work to prepare naphthalenic terephthalic acid analogs. He intends to complete his doctoral thesis in 2018, secure an avenue for continued intellectual and professional development (either a program for academic or industrial post-doctoral study), or find work in the chemical industries, before ultimately returning to academia if there is an opportunity.
Eric’s initial interest in sciences comes from his family. “My mother initially got me going with dinosaurs. From a young age, I was particularly interested in paleontology which developed into a passion for life sciences and for astrophysics/planetology. In high school I had two wonderful chemistry teachers (one for general chemistry and one for organic chemistry); it also turns out that most astronomers spend time looking at computer screens rather than the night sky nowadays. Those two factors controlled my decision to pursue an undergraduate degree in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls where I had the great pleasure of working for a research advisor who gave me every opportunity to develop technical skills and fundamental knowledge. The small class sizes at UWRF afforded many opportunities to interact with each of the faculty members directly so that I was always able to challenge my understanding.”
Eric is one of several students featured in the following video about some of the work being done in Dr. Mukund Sibi’s CSMS research group: https://vimeo.com/164640773. This video and others from the CSMS researchers can be found on the CSMS website’s Multimedia page at http://csms-ndsu.org/multimedia/.