YaleNews

The Yale Department of Chemistry held its 17th annual Connecticut Organic Chemistry Symposium and poster session on April 12 at the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory.

The event featured four speakers and a poster session in which students and scientists in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries presented research. Like in previous years, the lineup included a speaker from a pharmaceutical company with a significant presence in Connecticut, as well as a Yale professor. One hundred and forty people registered to attend the event.

“This conference was initiated to encourage scientific interaction and discourse among different universities and pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the area, and I think it’s really done a great job in fulfilling that,” said Jonathan Ellman, professor of chemistry and pharmacology.

Besides members of the Yale community, students and professors from other universities in the state such as Connecticut College, as well as industry experts, also attended the event. There were representatives from global pharmaceutical corporations like Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim, as well as smaller companies, such as Melinta Therapeutics and Arvinas, which are both based in New Haven, Ellman said.

The 14 posters at the poster session displayed the research by Yale students, employees at Boehringer Ingelheim and students at Southern Connecticut State University.

Tomislav Rovis, a chemistry professor at Columbia who spoke at the symposium, said that regional meetings to bring chemists together are important because they allow people to gather and share ideas.

Progress in science often stems from unanticipated ideas and discoveries that emerge from interactions among researchers, Rovis said.

Ellman noted that, compared to previous years, there has been a decrease in the pharmaceutical companies’ presence in Connecticut, pointing to the announcement of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s departure from Wallingford earlier this year. However, the departure of a few major companies has been offset by the rise of rapidly growing start-ups, he said.

Daniel Fandrick, a senior principal scientist at Boehringer Ingelheim, gave a talk midway through the day about his research, which centers on optimizing small-molecule reactions.

Suzanne Szewczyk GRD ’20 said she enjoyed Fandick’s talk in particular since it offered the opportunity to gain a glimpse into how the pharmaceutical company operates, what problems researchers there solve and the challenges they face in doing so.

Another attendee, JJ Hwang GRD ’23 said she was inspired by the many speakers of the day and their projects.

“I guess I’m still at the stage where I enjoy listening to other professors talk about their research so I can draw inspiration from them and think about future directions that I want to take, she said, adding that it was good to see what’s going on in the department and to talk with fellow scientists.

Sarah Reisman GRD ’06, a chemistry professor at the California Institute of Technology and another guest speaker, said she attended the conference as a graduate student and looked forward to it because it exposed graduate students to the field and gave them opportunities to talk with faculty members at the poster session.

“I speak at a decent amount of conferences, but it’s always special talking at the place where you graduated from,” Reisman said.

Le Vi Pham | levi.pham@yale.edu