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Clarkson Student Wins Research Award In National Competition Sponsored By The Minority Research Training Forum

[A photograph of Halimatu Mohammed is available at]

Halimatu Mohammed of Bronx, N.Y., a chemistry major at Clarkson University, has received the Acres of Diamonds Award from the Minority Trainee Research Forum (MTRF). The award was announced at a MTRF national meeting held last month in Florida.

Mohammed submitted a scientific research paper, “Selective Deprotection of D-6, 3-Glucuronolactone Derivatives,” as part of a national competition sponsored by MTRF. She was one of 12 students nationwide chosen to attend the conference and deliver a poster and oral presentation of her project.hmohammed

Mohammed’s research focused on developing a mechanism to protect and deprotect some functional groups in the compound, D-6, 3-Glucuronolactone using the iodine in methanol reagent system.

“Many compounds have multiple reactive sites. This is a problem when chemists attempt to perform a reaction with only one of these sites. Therefore, a method designed to deactivate the sites that might interfere with the target reaction is needed,” explained Mohammed. “After the desired reaction is completed, the protected groups must be reactivated. This process is known as protection-deprotection. This can be difficult to accomplish in many organic compounds, and carbohydrates in particular. This was the challenge my research project addressed.”

Mohammed transferred to Clarkson in fall 2003 from Bronx Community College in New York City.  The research was conducted in the summer of 2003 while she was still a student at Bronx Community College. She is currently an American Chemical Society Scholar, the president of the N.Y. Alumni Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa International Society, and is enrolled in the Honors Program at Clarkson.

“Clarkson has been a very good fit for me,” she said. “I am getting excellent training, particularly in honing my scientific presentation skills and in working as part of a research team. I have opportunities to work with faculty and on research that I would not have at other institutions.  Clarkson is giving me technical experience I will need in the outside world.”

This past summer, Mohammed was one of 15 students selected across the country to participate in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the Dalian University of Technology in China. The REU program in China is administered by Hayley Shen and Hung Tao Shen, both professors in Clarkson’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Mohammed worked with a select group of students from around the country on research on the effects of pulse electric field on flame behavior and the chemical effect behind the mechanism.

“I had a great experience in China,” Mohammed said. “It wasn’t all just work. We had the opportunity to go sightseeing and visit historical sites. And I met students from other universities with interests similar to my own.”

She has worked on polymer assembly in the laboratory of Professor of Chemistry Devon Shipp for three semesters.  She is now working on both her honors and Chemistry Department senior theses, “Synthesis and Characterization of Multifunctional Polymeric Nanospheres,” under the supervision of Prof. Shipp.

"Research for Halimatu has been the training ground and propulsion system for future accomplishment,” explained David Craig, Clarkson professor of humanities and director of the Honors Program. “At Bronx Community College, she performed research in mathematics as well as the work in chemistry for which she received the Acres of Diamonds Award.  The research she is doing here at Clarkson now, and did in China over the summer, is even more sophisticated and may mean that there will be more recognition and awards coming her way. She has a very promising professional future ahead of her.”

Mohammed plans to attend graduate school after she graduates from Clarkson in 2005. “I plan to apply to schools that offer the combined M.D./Ph.D. program, which takes seven or eight years to complete. Ultimately, I am interested in becoming a research scientist specializing in the medical field of neuro surgery.”

The Minority Trainee Research Forum is under the direction of Moses Williams, with its headquarters located on the campus of Temple University. It is funded through the National Institutes of Health and other agencies.  

This program strives to expose minority children, as young as the second grade, to research. The program provides them with summer research opportunities until they reach high school when they begin conducting research in numerous distinct universities under the direction of prestigious mentors. MTRF also hosts invitational scientific meeting, showcasing the serious trainees engaged in biomedical research.  The goal is to reach and engage minority students underrepresented in the biomedical sciences.

Clarkson University, located in Potsdam, New York, is an independent university with a reputation for developing innovative leaders in technology-based fields. Its academically rigorous, collaborative culture involves 2,700 undergraduates and 350 graduate students in hands-on team projects, multidisciplinary research, and real-world challenges. Many faculty members achieve international recognition for their scholarship and research, and teaching is a priority at every level. For more information, visit

PHOTO CAPTION: Clarkson University chemistry major Halimatu Mohammed ’05 recently received the “Acres of Diamonds Award” from the Minority Trainee Research Forum, a federally funded initiative with a mission to engage students historically underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. Here, Mohammed (left) works with Clarkson Professor of Chemistry Devon Shipp (right) on research for her thesis, “Synthesis and Characterization of Multifunctional Polymeric Nanospheres.”
[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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