Summer Centered: Velay Scholar Michelle Lin ’20 Builds on Years of Chemistry Research
The chemistry major is continuing her work as a research assistant for Professor Robert Scarrow with an eye towards her thesis.
As a veteran chemistry research assistant, Michelle Lin ’20 has become something of a laboratory virtuoso. In her most recent role assisting chemistry professor Robert Scarrow, she can be found performing any number of lab tasks, deftly maneuvering the equipment she has become so comfortable with during her time at Haverford.
“I do something different everyday,” said the chemistry major. “Each day can range from trying a new synthesis or characterizing my compounds to trying to grow nice crystals.” Each of these responsibilities is only one part of a larger process—for example, once these crystals are grown, the Scarrow lab sends them to Glenn Yap at the University of Delaware, whose lab analyzes it in their X-ray crystallography facility.
This workflow is something Lin has gotten used to in the past few years. She has been working in the Scarrow lab since the summer after her first year, occupying a series of different roles and learning loads along the way—about both chemistry and herself.
“My research experience at Haverford has given me many opportunities to conduct different kinds of chemistry research,” she said. “From ‘Superlab’ to the multitude of research tutorial courses that professors offer, I think that I’ve gotten an idea of what kind of research I’m passionate for.”
As a fellow with the KINSC’s Frances Velay Womens’ Science Research Fellowship Program, Lin—along with several other Haverford students and women scientists across the country—has received funding for her summer work, which is intended to prepare her for a future in the natural sciences. In this most recent position as a Velay Scholar, Lin has the opportunity to continue honing in on the research projects that she’s passionate about while preparing for the lab component of her upcoming senior thesis.
“This work is actually a continuation of my work from ‘Superlab,’” she said. “I was lucky enough that Professor Scarrow taught ‘Superlab’ this year, and I wanted to continue my project for thesis, as I found interesting results that I wanted to further investigate, so I applied for funding.”
Lin is studying particular types of compounds, called ligands, that give rise to metal complexes. Specifically, Lin and Scarrow are interested in the biological applications of such molecules—in the past, they have synthesized ligands that perform the desired functions, but are unstable in water and, therefore, not especially relevant to biological studies. Lin’s current project involves trying to produce ligands that are stable in water and still perform the preferred functions so that they can be useful in biological systems.
“The absolute dream is to be published—isn’t everyone’s?—but I hope that my research will result in compounds that are more relevant in intracellular conditions,” said Lin. “I love the challenges and excitement that come with making new compounds that other labs have not yet made.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.