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FutureFuel Gift Aids Summer Research for Nawarathne and Students

The FutureFuel Chemical Company in Batesville, Arkansas, recently awarded Lyon College chemistry professor Dr. Irosha Nawarathne and her students with a gift to aid their summer research.

FutureFuel, which has a longstanding partnership with Lyon, awarded Nawarathne with a $2,500 gift to assist Lyon students Will Staton and Brian Bumpous with their research stipends over the summer.

“Generally, FutureFuel provides summer internship opportunities for Lyon students,” said Nawarathne. “This year they changed their support slightly and requested Lyon chemistry faculty submit short summer research proposals. So I just wrote a two-page proposal on tuberculosis (TB) drug discovery, sent it to them, and they generously provided me with the funding to support students to work at Lyon over the summer. It’s been very helpful. My research group is very grateful to them.”

Remaining funds were used to assist other summer research students from Lyon College, Jordan Trant and LaShawna Hanes, and two Highland High School students, Tristian Wiles and Trevor Patrick.

The gift allowed summer students to develop new rifampicin (RIF) like compounds to combat TB drug-resistance. Their research revolved around modifying the chemical compound RIF, a first-line drug for TB that is ineffective against RIF-resistant TB strains, so that modified RIF compounds can bind to the mutated TB strains and once again achieve effectiveness.

Scientists at FutureFuel further assisted Nawarathne and her students by using the various instruments they own to analyze chemicals.

“That collaboration really helped us in continuing our research,” said Nawarathne. “We made a lot of progress because of their technical support this summer. Usually we have to wait for days to get data back and then continue the next step of the synthesis. This way we get the feedback right away and can move onto the next level faster.”

In previous years, FutureFuel has provided Lyon with internships for its students. Lyon students worked at FutureFuel, often over the summer and occasionally during the academic year, in order to hone their research skills alongside chemistry professionals while gaining experience in their relevant fields. Through these internships, several Lyon graduates were able to begin their professional careers at FutureFuel.

Lyon students also visited research and development labs at FutureFuel last April to explore the use of chemical instrumentation in the industry.

“I think these three things—funding, collaboration, and internships—have been very helpful for the success of our chemistry program,” said Nawarathne. “Students get to explore opportunities they wouldn’t have thought about before through our partnership.”

FutureFuel’s gift will continue to assist Nawarathne and her students into the new school year, supplementing travel funds to conferences, which often highlight the research accomplishments of Lyon students.

News article courtesy of Alexandra Patrono-Smith at September 5, 2016, 12:30 PM.