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Undergraduate Researchers

MAry Li

Mary Li, Biochemistry

“Development of New Methods for the Estimation of Dissociation Energies between Isoelectronic Pairs”

We suggest that it is necessary to review estimation techniques of dissociation energies between isoelectronic pairs. Isoelectronic pairs are compounds that share the same number of electrons such as BH¬¬4-/CH¬4 and CO2/NO2+. These compounds can be substituted for each other in experiments. We are studying whether there is a better model for the estimation of the dissociation energies than William L. Jolly’s method, published in “A New Method for the Estimation of Dissociation Energies and Its Application to the Correlation of Core-Electron Binding Energies Obtained from X-Ray Photoelectron Spectra” Journal of the American Chemical Society (1970), 92(11), 3260-5. Because there are updated techniques for finding experimental values of dissociation energies, Jolly’s model may not hold true for the same isoelectronic species he once used. We can evaluate this by assuming that a difference in dissociation energy is equal to the difference in the sum of the ionic contributions to the bonds. At this stage of the research, we are trying to calculate the dissociation energies of each of the bonds to determine which one relates most closely to the actual bonds.

When did you start conducting research at UMBC? How did you find a mentor and project to work on?

I started to conduct research at UMBC in February 2011. I was very lucky to find my mentor. During an Honors Orientation the summer before my freshman year, we were able to eat lunch with the professors of similar majors, so I met Dr.Liebman there. Later on in the year, we bumped into each other in the hallway, and I asked him about his research. I was interested in theoretical chemistry, and so he assigned a project to me.

What did you know about your field/project when you started? How did you learn what you needed to know?

When I started, I was only a freshman in General Chemistry, so I knew about formal charges and Lewis structures and that was about it. I had also taken up to Discrete Mathematics in high school, so I knew a little about calculations. Dr.Liebman taught me most of what I needed to know, including walking me through calculations and explaining different chemical theories to me.

Who do you work with on your project? Other undergraduates? graduate students? faculty?

I worked on my project with only Dr.Liebman and another assistant professor in Slovenia.

How did you decide to present at URCAD?

I decided to present at URCAD because this may be my last research experience at UMBC and I wanted to do something I've never done before.

Was the application difficult?

The application was not difficult at all. After completing the abstract, my professor and Ms.McGlynn made a few changes, and we were all set.

How did you know what to put on your poster?

Ms.McGlynn and Mr.Fick did a god job of giving us examples of what to put on our posters, and my research professor and I thought of some good examples to put on as well.

Were you nervous about explaining your work to so many people? How did it go?

I was not very nervous because I like public speaking. I just didn't want people getting lost in all of the equations on the board. I was a little surprised and very flattered that everyone seemed so interested in my project and in theoretical chemistry. I think they understood what I was saying, and I'm glad I got to expose people to this other side of chemistry.

Will you work in the lab during the 2012-2013 school year? How much time will you put in? Do you get paid for this? Academic credit?

I do not know if I will work during the 2012-2013 school year, because I will be in pharmacy school during that time.

What are your goals for after UMBC?

I will be going to University of Maryland Baltimore Pharmacy School, where I may pursue a dual degree in MBA, MPH, or PhD.

Would you suggest to other undergraduates that they find a research project?

I definitely would. It has been a great experience, and I learned to think more creatively about science.

What else are you involved in at UMBC?

At UMBC, I am involved with the Golden Key International Honor Society, Biology Tutorial Center, Community Orchestra, and Pre-pharmacy club, among other things.