When Sam Bartlett ran into his advanced organic chemistry professor, Chris Beaudry, at the near-campus coffee shop Interzone in spring 2010, he had more than a caffeine quest on his mind.
Bartlett, a chemistry major at Oregon State University, approached Beaudry and asked if there were any undergraduate positions available in Beaudry's research group.
Beaudry responded to Bartlett's forthright question by signing him up to begin work that summer in his laboratory in Gilbert Hall, only a few blocks from Interzone.
"It made a lot of sense for him to come join my group," he said.
The chances taken by Bartlett and Beaudry paid off for both; a paper about a discovery Bartlett made in Beaudry's lab was written by both of them and recently was published in the October issue of Journal of Organic Chemistry.
Their article details how Bartlett discovered that an oxidant called o-iodoxybenzoic, or IBX, can be nearly universally used to convert one compound into another (or, in technical terms, beta-hydroxyketone into beta-diketone).
It's a more efficient way to synthesize one organic compound into another, a necessary step when creating more complex organic molecules. The method can save significant time when used in pharmaceutical, nanotechnology and biochemical research.
The article is the first Beaudry has published in a peer-reviewed journal since arriving at OSU in 2009 and launching his research group, and Bartlett's first ever.
Though admittedly a time-consuming endeavor, Beaudry said the time spent in a lab while an undergraduate and graduate student is crucial: "It's where you become a scientist."
Added Bartlett: "I felt like I became a scientist when my paper was accepted."
Bartlett is one of hundreds of OSU undergraduates conducting research both on and off campus, but one of only a handful who has been published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.
That makes a big difference when a student applies to graduate school and, especially in scientific fields, seeks research positions.
"It's a really good thing for the undergrads," Beaudry said. "That claims that you can take research to the next level."
Specifically, getting published speaks volumes about a student to a potential faculty advisor, said Brenda McComb, dean of OSU's Graduate School.
"Students who aspire to those positions and who have completed research from idea conception to publication make it clear to a potential graduate adviser that the student knows all of the steps in the process, and is likely to be successful having learned from working through that process," McComb said in an email.
Bartlett is applying to graduate programs on both the West and East coasts, and the published article ensures that he'll get accepted somewhere.
"I'd probably still send in applications, but I wouldn't be as confident," he said.
Beaudry said the chemistry department typically doesn't offer admissions to students who did their undergraduate work at OSU in chemistry, so Bartlett - also a 2008 Crescent Valley High School graduate - won't be able to stay in Corvallis for graduate work. But there's a chance he could some day return.
"Who knows, maybe we'll hire him at OSU as a professor," Beaudry said.
Contact Gazette-Times reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9510 or email@example.com