Biochemistry student Will Henderson’s hydrazine research lead to the design of a dynamic and reusable sensor to detect toxic hydrazine in the air.
Hydrazine is molecule widely used in chemical synthesis and space industries and is toxic to the liver. The project provides a solution to health risks that are posed by hydrazine fuel loading and leakages.
According to Henederson, a sensitive and reusable sensor for hydrazine has long been sought after. Henderson used intramolecular bonding and fluorescence properties to fine-tune the sensitivity and cavity size of his phane-sensor molecule.
“Fluorescence detection would be an ideal method of sensing hydrazine at low concentrations due to its sensitivity and non-covalent nature allowing for dynamic detection,” Henderson said.
Nearly everything in organic chemistry involves synthesis. So to synthesize molecules using literature and intuition and study their properties is a skill set that can be used in graduate school, industry, and even everyday life.
Henderson’s hydrazine research enabled him to learn about all the different types of reactions.
“I studied research journals nearly every day to see if there are some precedents that could potentially help us, and to my surprise, I found few,” Henderson “It seems that in this respect I could be the first person trying and optimizing a certain reaction, and that research could be widely applicable.”
Thanks to his research, Henderson has become familiar with the techniques, methods and reactions he will utilize in graduate school, where he plans to continue doing organic synthesis.
Henderson advises students to take on a project that provides hands-on experience and will give them a final product at the end so that you can see your efforts materialize.
According to Henderson, research is about doing something new, not reproducing something that has already been done. It is okay if the project does not work every time as long as students learn from the experience and apply it to the next try.
“Student design is important because it allows you to apply all the things you learn in class and apply them to a project that you do yourself,” Henderson. “This is the whole reason you studied what you did, so now you can show what you learned.”
Henderson won Best in Show for Chemistry at the 2016 Northrop Grumman Engineering & Science Student Design Showcase