Florida Tech Junior Wins NSF-funded Program Poster Award

MELBOURNE, FLA.—Ryan McLay, a Florida Institute of Technology junior majoring in chemical engineering, won first place in the Research Poster Competition of the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program held at the University of South Carolina, recently. The national program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

McLay’s biofuel research project involved implementing advanced quantum-chemical computational methods to investigate the effects of water, butanol, acetonitrile and octane solvents on the selectivity and activity of Palladium catalysts for the hydrodeoxygenation of organic esters.

Understanding these effects allows researchers to optimize biomass to lipid conversion techniques by efficiently removing highly corrosive oxygen from the produced bio-oil.

Since he was a sophomore, McLay also has been working as a research assistant to Associate Professor Joel Olson in the Florida Tech Department of Chemistry. Their project investigates a potential pharmaceutical compound called tryptanthrin. The work involves using scanning tunneling microscopy to evaluate the density of the electron states of the various analogs of the compound, with the hope of optimizing them for different pharmacological applications.

Born in Washington State, McLay has resided all over the United States as well as abroad. He has lived in West Melbourne for the past six years, graduated from Bayside High School and dual-enrolled at Brevard Community College during high school.

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