Offering the Opportunity
Chemistry professor encourages undergrads to gain research experience
When assistant professor Jakob Magolan came to the University of Idaho in fall 2010, Ray von Wandruszka, chair of the College of Science’s Department of Chemistry, told him the university has a very gifted undergraduate population, and he should make sure to seize that opportunity. Magolan has taken this advice by offering many undergrads the chance to earn credit for assisting in research in his lab.
After obtaining his doctorate from the University of Western Ontario and spending three years working in Australia, Magolan came to UI to study organic synthetic chemistry, which he describes as “how to build useful complex organic compounds from simple ones.”
Magolan has worked hard to include undergraduates in his research at UI, having them work alongside him and his graduate students. Right now, he has six undergrads and three graduate students on his team — and the word team means a lot to Magolan.
“For me, an important part of mentorship is the fostering of a team atmosphere in which knowledge can be passed laterally between students,” he said. “I meet individually with each student often, but we also meet each week as a team to talk about chemistry together.”
Undergraduates not only serve as research assistants to graduate students, but they also get hands-on experience and education to supplement their classwork.
“Our weekly meetings emphasize advanced organic chemistry education and cover a range of topics that extend beyond our own research activities,” he said.
Almost all of Magolan’s undergrad students receive their first significant laboratory training under him. These experiences have already led seven former UI undergrads to be accepted into doctoral programs at chemistry departments around the country.
His research team has even brought in students from Lewis-Clark State College, University of Wyoming and Brigham Young University. Several of the undergrads he recruited have co-authored articles in respected scientific journals before earning their bachelor’s degrees.
While under his supervision, undergraduate students have also applied for and received grants to support their research. Fellowships such as the Idaho INBRE summer fellowship and the Hill Undergraduate Research Fellowship have given thousands of dollars to undergraduates studying organic synthetics at UI.
“I’m very proud of all our team has accomplished, especially in the short amount of time we’ve been around,” Magolan said. “And a lot of that is thanks to the work of our undergraduates.”
WRITER: Keegan Lawler, a junior from Rathdrum, Idaho, is majoring in English with an emphasis in creative writing.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Chuan He is a sophomore from Zhuhai, China, studying secondary education with an emphasis on social studies.