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UCD PhD student captures SFI Research Image of the Year award

Posted November 16, 2016

A PhD student at University College Dublin has won the Science Foundation Ireland Research Image of the Year competition.

The competition celebrates images captured by (opens in a new window)Science Foundation Ireland funded researchers during the course of their research.

Andrea Zanetti, a Chemistry PhD student at the UCD School of Chemistry, won the award for his image: ‘Organic ChemisTree, a Telescopic View’.

The chemical reaction Andrea was trying to create is a known as a Sandmeyer reaction, which requires an excess amount of copper.

The product of this reaction is an early-stage building block of a Lipoxin analogue, which was the aim of his project.

Pictured: Andrea Zanetti, a Chemistry PhD student working under the supervision of Professor Pat Guiry at the UCD School of Chemistry, won the award for his image: ‘Organic ChemisTree, a Telescopic View’.

Lipoxins are naturally occurring anti-inflammatory molecules whose short life in vivo – where the effects of a biological process is tested in a living organism – renders them non-viable for use as a pharmaceutical drug.

Andrea's research is based on making molecules similar to the natural occurring Lipoxin. These changes should make the novel molecules more resistant while maintaining/improving their anti-inflammatory properties.

Explaining why he decided to capture the image of the reaction, Andrea said: “Whenever I went to purify the reaction mixture that I had left in a round bottom flask, the small brown crystal caught my attention.

“By tilting the round bottom flask, I could see the whole crystal structures (most of it was previously submerged by the reaction mixture), and the resemblance to a tree was quite astonishing. That’s when I decided it was worthwhile to take a picture of it.”

“By the evening when I finally got time to work…the copper salts (side product) had slowly grown (crashed out) in the shape of a tree from the green island (my product mixture). The blue sky background is due to the nitrile glove I was wearing.”

November 13-20 marks the Science Foundation Ireland-led (opens in a new window)Science Week, which provides people across Ireland with the opportunity to attend a wide range of events and explore how science is a part of their everyday lives.

By Jamie Deasy, digital journalist, UCD University Relations