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FutureFuel gift aids summer research for students

The FutureFuel Chemical Company in Batesville, Ark., recently presented Lyon College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Irosha Nawarathne and her students with a gift to aid their summer research.

FutureFuel, which has a longstanding partnership with Lyon, awarded Nawarathne with a $2,500 gift to assist Lyon students Will Staton and Brian Bumpous with their research stipends over the summer.

“FutureFuel often provides Lyon student summer internship opportunities,” Nawarathne said. “This year they changed their support and requested Lyon chemistry faculty submit short summer research proposals."

Nawarathne wrote a two-page proposal on tuberculosis (TB) drug recovery and sent it to FutureFuel earlier this year. FutureFuel accepted her proposal and agreed to provide funding for chemistry students working at Lyon over the summer.

"It’s been very helpful," she said. "My research group is very grateful to them.”

Nawarathne used remaining funds to support two other Lyon summer research students, Jordan Trant and LaShawna Hanes, and two Highland High School students, Tristian Wiles and Trevor Patrick.

FutureFuel's gift allowed summer students to develop new rifampicin (RIF) like compounds to combat TB drug resistance. Their research involved modifying the chemical compound RIF, a first-line drug for TB that is ineffective against RIF-resistant TB strains, so that modified RIF compounds can bind to the mutated TB strains and once again become effective.

Scientists at FutureFuel further assisted Nawarathne and her students by analyzing the research group's chemicals.

“That collaboration really helped us in continuing our research,” Nawarathne said. “We made a lot of progress because of their technical support this summer. Usually we have to wait for days to get data back and continue the next step of the synthesis. This way we get the feedback right away and can move onto the next step faster.”

In previous years, FutureFuel has provided Lyon with internships for its students. Lyon students worked at FutureFuel, often over the summer and occasionally during the academic year, in order to hone their research skills alongside chemistry professionals and gain experience in their relevant fields. Through these internships, several Lyon graduates were able to begin their professional careers at FutureFuel.

“I think these three things—funding, collaboration and internships—have been very helpful for the success of our chemistry program,” Nawarathne said. “Students get to explore opportunities they wouldn't have thought about before through our partnership.”

FutureFuel’s gift will continue to assist Nawarathne and her students into the new school year, supplementing conference travel funds.

Posted by Alexandra Patrono-Smith at 12:30 PM