Kristen Maiden ('16, Marine Biology/Chemistry)

Kristen MaidenWhat do you do for your undergraduate research?

I synthesize new tryptamine compounds, which look like biologically active molecules. Each molecule I make is unique, with variations in 3 places. We then send my compounds to UNC Chapel Hill, where the Psychoactive Drug Screening Program tests the ability of my drugs to bind to brain receptors.

What made you want to pursue an undergraduate research project?

As an honors student, I knew I would have to do a thesis by my senior year. After taking organic chemistry, I knew I wanted to work in an organic lab. I talked to Dr. Morgan, my organic lecturer about joining his lab.

How did you start your research project?

After a year working on projects related to a masters student's thesis, I began thinking about what I'd like to do for my thesis. In one of our lab group meetings, Dr. Morgan mentioned research on tryptamines, compounds with biologic potential. I immediately became interested and asked if I could work on this project. We came up with the idea of making a series of tryptamines and testing their activity with brain receptors.

Was doing your own research fun? Be Honest.

Parts of my research were very fun! After I developed the reaction conditions, it was exciting to make the compounds over the summer. Later, it was fun to see the results of the brain receptor binding assays.

It isn't required to do research as an undergrad, so what advantages do you think this experience has provided you?

Since I want to continue doing research after I graduate, having experience is a major advantage. I also learned other valuable skills, such as how to plan my work for a week and be a self-motivated worker.

What recognition and/or grants did you receive for your research?

To support my research, I received the Summer Undergraduate Research and Creativity Award and a CSURF Travel Award to present my research at the American Chemical Society's national meeting in San Diego. For presenting off campus, I also am a distinguished undergraduate research scholar.

What are your plans after you receive your degree from UNCW?

After I graduate from UNCW, I plan to do research for another year and then apply to medical school.

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