Published: 22 October 2013

Two organic chemistry PhD students win John A Elvidge Prize

Presentations on research that could benefit the pharmaceutical industry have won recognition for two PhD students.

Katerina Ridge and Watcharee Waratchareeyakul were announced as the joint winners of the inaugural John A Elvidge Prize for Postgraduate Research in Organic Chemistry at a symposium held in the Department of Chemistry on 24 September. The award is in memory of Professor Elvidge – who was Professor of Organic Chemistry at Surrey from 1965 to 1988 – and aims to highlight ground-breaking research in the field of organic chemistry.

Five PhD students made presentations in front of a 30-strong audience, which included judges Dr Ben Belleni of Novartis and Professor Bill Lockley of the Department of Chemistry. Commenting on the exceptionally high standard of presentations, the judges eventually decided that the prize should be jointly awarded to Katerina and Watcharee.

Katerina Ridge’s paper on ‘A study in the Synthesis, Crystallisation and Reactivity of Twisted Acrylamides’ revealed her research into the preparation of 19 new compounds which have significant implications for the pharmaceutical industry. Twisting within these compounds influences the way they react and crystallise – giving drug developers vital information as they put compounds together. “Knowing how compounds react and crystallise will help the pharmaceutical industry to save time and money," explains Katerina. "This is an area that has not been explored very much before."

Watcharee Waratchareeyakul spoke on ‘The Phytochemistry of the Meliaceae Family’, presenting the findings of her research into isolating chemical compounds in plants, which opens the door to a range of possible medical applications. The compounds – found in the Meliaceae (mahogany) family – are potentially a useful component of drugs used to treat malaria, elephantiasis and cancer. The John A Elvidge Prize was a second accolade for Watcharee’s research: she recently won the ‘Best Speaker’ award for the same presentation at a symposium on new developments in natural products research in Austria.

As winners of the John A Elvidge Prize, Katerina and Watcharee have received a grant to enable them to further their knowledge by attending a conference or visiting a research centre.

Katerina says: “This was the first time I had made a presentation, so it was a challenge, but a good one. Although it was a competition, the symposium was a great opportunity for the whole department to learn what other people are doing – I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the other presentations.”

Professor Dulcie Mulholland, Head of Surrey’s Department of Chemistry, comments: “The excellent standard of presentations from our senior PhD students in organic chemistry demonstrates the top quality research being conducted in this Department, and indicates that our new Joseph Kenyon laboratory will be put to excellent use.”

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