Central College News

Central Professor Jay Wackerly Awarded National Science Foundation Grant

Featured: Central Professor Jay Wackerly Awarded National Science Foundation Grant

October 18, 2021

Jay Wackerly, associate professor of chemistry at Central College, has been awarded a National Science Foundation Award of $235,000 for academic research.

The National Science Foundation supports fundamental research and education in all non-medical fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, including computer science and the social sciences. This support advances knowledge to grow the U.S. economy and sustain global leadership.

With the help of Central students, Wackerly will conduct research focused on the synthesis and supramolecular properties of a novel class of supramolecular macrocyclic host molecules they have termed “cambiarenes.”

From the Latin cambiare, meaning “to change,” these molecules can change from one form to another in the presence of a chemical or electronic stimulus. The first cambiarene was reported in 2019 by the Wackerly lab at Central in “Chemistry — A European Journal.” These newly invented cambiarenes could act as molecular transport vehicles to be used for carbon sequestration and chemotherapeutic drug delivery.

“It’s exciting to see our work funded in the same program as Nobel prize-winning scientists, and I am honored to have been awarded this grant,” Wackerly says. “We hope to continue to innovate the field of supramolecular chemistry by designing and creating new cambiarene structures that can be utilized for a wide variety of applications.”

This award will provide funding for Central students to perform summer research, attend and present at national conferences and for laboratory reagents and supplies.

Central students who currently conduct research on cambiarenes with Wackerly are Amy Philavanh, Class of 2022; Madolyn Clark, Class of 2022; Bronwyn Metcalf, Class of 2022; Bradon Annegers, Class of 2023; Marcus DeVries, Class of 2023; and Seth Olsen, Class of 2025.

This ongoing research has been funded through multiple grants since 2013, including an Organic Syntheses, Inc. Grant for Summer Research, American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund Undergraduate New Investigator Grant and multiple Moore Family Foundation Development Grants.

“Central College is proud of Dr. Wackerly and fully supportive of this promising, ongoing research,” says Mary Strey, Central’s vice president for academic affairs and the dean of faculty. “This prestigious grant will not only allow Jay to advance his research but help develop necessary skills our students need to pursue successful careers in STEM.”

Wackerly earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Winona State University in Minnesota in 2003. He received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Illinois in 2008. He has been with Central since 2011.