RCSA Honors Wysocki With Grant

by Richard Paige

March 3, 2015

Laura Wysocki, Wabash College assistant professor of chemistry, was awarded a $40,000 grant from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA), the group’s Board of Directors announced Feb. 24.

Beginning in July, the two-year grant will support a project centered around research on fluorescent dyes titled, “From Dark to Light: Versatile Synthesis of Fluorogenic Small Molecule Sensors and Enzyme Substrates,” one of 33 Cottrell College Science Awards given out specifically for undergraduate institutions and research.

“Grant proposals help me to look a little further beyond what I’m doing in the lab,” said Wysocki. “It forces me to think of new ideas and approaches to science. Funding means I can follow through on those ideas; it encourages me to try new things in the lab. Support like this from the Research Corporation is tremendous for undergraduate research and schools like Wabash.”

This grant continues Wysocki’s work with fluorescent dyes by focusing on an important feature of the dye’s usability, the contrast between darkness and light. Noting the fact that it is easier to see a flashlight in a totally dark room than it is to see that same flashlight in a room that has some background light, Wysocki is trying to design chemical sensors and biological imaging tools that are better to use and safer for the cells.

Wysocki's illuminating research will also benefit student internship opportunities.The fluorescent dyes Wysocki uses are dark until a reaction happens, and then they illuminate. In some experiments, the illumination process produces formaldehyde as a byproduct, which is toxic in large doses. Wysocki hopes to develop something that is easier for cells to metabolize to ensure that observed cell behaviors are not due to the toxicity of the imaging tool.

RCSA awards are subject to a peer-review process, which ensures funding goes to the best and brightest among America’s young academic scientists, those who are likely to be leaders in their fields in the coming decades. Wysocki has been a member of the Wabash faculty since 2011.

“I was thrilled, though not surprised, to learn Professor Wysocki was awarded this highly competitive grant,” said Dr. Scott E. Feller, Dean of the College. “This award, which is based on the assessment of accomplished organic chemists from across the country, confirms my view that Laura and her students are carrying out cutting-edge chemical research at Wabash College.”

Additionally, the College will match funds of $15,000 to provide two undergraduate research internships in each year of the grant, bring the total funding for the project to $55,000.


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