Published on July 1, 2020 by Sean Flynt  
Wilger Willis
Professor Dale Wilger works with student Jasmine Willis ‘19

Faculty-led research with student collaborators is the distinctive focus of Samford’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The immersive, one-on-one experience creates opportunities for professional networking and publication in peer-reviewed journals, and helps open the doors to graduate education and careers. Chemistry professor Dale Wilger continues that emphasis by earning a new grant that will give his students essential lab experience and a chance to contribute to a wide range of practical applications.

The $70,000 grant from the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund provides funding for three years of research, most of which will be performed by students under Wilger’s guidance. He said the research aims to develop new Ni-catalyzed cross-coupling reactions to synthesize a class of molecule known as an indenone. Indenone structures are present in a wide variety of biologically active compounds, including known Alzheimer's treatments and developmental cancer treatments. Despite the importance of indenones, synthetic methods to create them are limited to a small subset of specific compounds. “My students' work should vastly expand upon the number of different indenones that can be synthesized and therefore examined for useful applications, including medicinal and pharmaceutical development,” Wilger said.

Earlier this year, Wilger secured an $8,000 summer research grant from the journal Organic Synthesis to support his research with students. In addition to his teaching and research, he continues to work with students to develop conference presentations and articles for peer-reviewed journals.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 37th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 97th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,758 students from 48 states and 22 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.