“My seventh grade science teacher was low-key wise,” William Carson said. “She said one day in class — and no one knew what the hell it meant at the time, but now I finally get it — she said, ‘Guys listen, one day you’ll realize science is just failure to disprove something.’”
Failing in order to succeed is what Carson and his research partner, Samson Zacate, have been doing ever since. They are both first-year chemistry majors studying under Dr. Wei Liu, looking to broaden their knowledge of the subject through specialized research and lab work.
Both students are working in a field revolving around increasing the effectivity of medicine, a process which has required them to expand their vocabulary as well as their technical ability.
“I’m fluorinating different compounds using electrochemistry with a catalyst that creates nitrogen radicals,” Samson said. “Fluorination is good because it has really good biological effects, and it helps in the pharmaceutical industry to get stuff into your bloodstream faster.”
Carson is working on a similar project involving Trifluoromethylation.
“Our project is basically trying to find methods to trifluoromethylate various molecules and some of those molecules are drugs, because if you are able to add trifluoromethy groups to any active drug, you get way better effects.”
This research has never been done before. William and Samson are some of the only people in the world doing this sort of experimentation.
“I remember in the lab literally three days ago I made this chemical that no one’s ever made before,” William said. “That’s one of the main reasons why we’re in it, it’s just so fucking cool to think that I’m the first person to ever make this chemical.”
Working in the lab as first-years isn’t all fun though. The pair of young chemists work hard to keep up with the rest of their studies, as well as find time to relax.
“It’s definitely hard to balance schoolwork with research,” Samson said. “Especially since we’re still getting used to college, or at least I am, and also spending time with your friends. It’s a fine balance.”
But, as they’re learning from their research, it’s the times of struggle that yield the best results.
“Everytime you fail you gain knowledge,” Samson said.