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Vial of the monomer, phenylglyoxal
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Class of 2024
I am a chemistry major at St. Lawrence University. I am from Pomfret, Vermont and grew up playing soccer and tennis. I enjoy spending as much time in the lab as I can doing research experiments. In the future I plan to attend graduate school for chemistry.
Summer 2023

This summer I worked to create new polymers that can be efficiently recycled. Our world today relies heavily on plastics that are hazardous for the environment and their production is unsustainable. Currently used polymers cannot be efficiently turned back into their monomers, so creating polymers that can be depolymerized and recycled would be a major improvement in minimizing the harmful effects of plastics on our planet. I directly worked on synthesizing and isolating new monomers. Specifically, I experimented with self-immolative polymers focusing on glyoxal derivatives. These polymers are very interesting since the form at low temperatures when exposed to a catalyst and depolymerize when they are exposed to the same catalyst at room temperature. In this work I was able to successfully isolate the monomer phenylglyoxal and attempted to polymerize the substance under different conditions. Using NMR, the phenylglyoxal appeared to polymerize under acidic conditions as well as when triethylamine was used as the catalyst. Further research should be done to prove that polymerization has occurred, as well as looking into the temperatures at which polymerization and depolymerizations happens for this molecule.