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Lindsey Westphal, a University of Wisconsin Oshkosh senior set to graduate Saturday, Dec. 14, was honored at the recent 2019 Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference in Madison for best chemistry poster by an undergraduate.

Sigma Xi is an honor society for scientists and engineers with chapters located around the world.

Westphal, of Oshkosh, presented her research poster, “An NMR Study of Organometallic Platinum (II) Compounds,” which used UWO’s new Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer.

She conducted an analysis of the structure and coordination sphere of two platinum complexes with guidance from faculty members Brant Kedrowski and William Wacholtz.

“We specifically were interested in examining the effects of the NMR active isotope of platinum and its application in chemical studies, including kinetic effects based on structural changes, mechanistic details of platinum-based compounds in catalysis and developing methods for binding studies of pharmaceuticals,” Wacholtz said.

Westphal, who excelled at chemistry in high school, especially enjoys working with the instruments in the lab.

UWO received a $355,000 grant from the National Science Foundation in 2017 to fund a custom-built NMR, an instrument used to study the magnetic properties of atoms and provide detailed information on the structure of molecules.

The NMR allows UWO faculty and students like Wacholtz and Westphal to study the structural characterization of molecules in solution.

“Overall, I learned how to apply my NMR knowledge and use multiple techniques to analyze the structures,” Westphal said. “I also worked with more complex data than what was covered in coursework.”

Wacholtz said a strength of UWO’s chemistry department is that students are “very quickly” introduced to working with research-level equipment in their classes.

As Westphal begins her job search after graduating from UWO on Saturday, her experience with the NMR is sure to be a plus.

“From here, Lindsey could go in a number of directions,” Wacholz said. “She’ll have an advantage in looking for a job in the industry as she is well-prepared to use the equipment. We are proud of her. Her work is very good.”

Biology senior and McNair Scholar Malykee Hall, of Oshkosh, also presented a poster at the Sigma Xi conference from his research with UWO’s environmental microbiologist Sabrina Mueller-Spitz.

Jennifer Mihalick, a physical chemist and co-chair of the chemistry department, serves as the UWO Sigma Xi chapter president and was on program committee for the conference.

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