Prep and Patience

Researchers in the Bartz chemistry lab include (l-r): Jeffrey Bartz, Myles Truss, and Braeden Rodriguez.

Myles Truss ’17 and Braeden Rodriguez ’16 are learning a great deal about chemistry during their summer internships in the laboratory of Associate Professor of Chemistry Jeffrey Bartz. Among the lessons is the extraordinary patience and preparation required to run an experiment that shoots lasers at chemical compounds in order to watch how they behave. According to Truss, it’s “a way of seeing” a chemical component “that combines chemistry and physics.” But things don’t always go as planned. Lasers need fixing, problems arise in the “beam machine,” sample preparation may go awry. According to Bartz, when a high tech piece of lab equipment breaks down his response often aligns with the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). And who would have thought chemistry taught that? Rodriguez and Truss are completing data from a Senior Individualized Project begun several years ago, which shows another key element of science–how it builds over time and through collaborations. Part of what they seek through laser “sight” is nitric oxide (NO) released from interesting compounds. Nitric oxide happens to be central to the chemistry research of someone quite close to Truss—his mother, Associate Professor of Chemistry Regina Stevens-Truss, whose research has found nitric oxide to be of great interest in several cascades of chemical events associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Truss and Rodriguez are testing theory, says Bartz, more “pure” science than applied—with two key products nevertheless, Bartz adds: “the research itself, and aspiring scientists like these two young men.” Rodriguez intends to declare chemistry as his major winter quarter of his sophomore year. Truss begins his first year this fall and is leaning toward chemistry as a possible major.