Welcome Incoming Chemistry Student, Mika Nakashige

On September 9, 2013 by Grad Forum

mika_thumbnailThe Graduate Forum would like to welcome Mika Nakashige, an incoming graduate student in the Department of Chemistry. Nakashige graduated this past spring from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, with a BA in chemistry.

Originally from Hawaii and having attended high school and college in western New England, Nakashige is used to being surrounded by all types of nature. It comes as no surprise then that she was drawn to Dartmouth’s forested and picturesque setting. When asked if her connection to nature inspired her choice of major, Nakashige remarked, “I think always being surrounded by so much natural beauty inspired me to pursue a degree in science in hopes that I’d be able to preserve the nature that I learned from and grew up with as a kid.”

As an undergraduate, Nakashige worked on a variety of research projects in a variety of places. Her first research opportunity took place at the University of Hawaii, where she worked on the molecule englerin A, a compound known for its ability to combat renal cancer cell lines. During a subsequent summer, Nakashige studied the synthesis of erythrophloin C, a compound thought to have potential antitubercular attributes. Her most recent work, and her senior thesis for Williams, focused on the thirteen-step synthesis of jerangolid D, an antifungal secondary metabolite. Despite the time constraints of the school year, Nakashige successfully optimized eight of the thirteen synthetic steps. Nakashige was proud of the project and happily remembers some of the more intense steps of the synthesis. “I remember having to tell my labmate that I was doing a reaction that involved syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide gas, in case something went wrong, and I passed out from carbon monoxide poisoning. Aside from that, this reaction allowed me to manipulate the molecule in a specific way that facilitated the concise creation of the desired product. Without this reaction, the synthesis would be longer, which would increase the time needed to complete the total synthesis and decrease the overall yield of the final product—making it worth the potential hazards.”

When Nakashige is not working in the lab, she enjoys spending time outside experiencing nature and keeping active. While at Williams, Nakashige was part of the varsity volleyball team and the ultimate Frisbee team. Nakashige hopes to continue with ultimate Frisbee here at Dartmouth. In addition to her athletic pursuits, Nakashige spends time each day brushing up on Japanese in preparation for a future (and return) trip to Kyoto, Japan.

by Perry Scheetz


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