St. Kate’s student wins Minnesota Academy of Science award

Meaghan Bruening '17

Meaghan Bruening ’17 received the Best in Session award from the Minnesota Academy of Science for her oral research presentation. Photo by Ashley de los Reyes ’15.

Meaghan Bruening ’17 was recently honored by the Minnesota Academy of Science for her chemistry research achievements at the Winchell Undergraduate Research Symposium. Bruening received the Best in Session award for her oral presentation. St. Kate’s students Nicole Blanshan ’15, Nicole Davis ’16, Samantha Morris ’15 and Yenchi Tran ’16 also presented research at the symposium.

Collaborating with faculty advisor Daron Janzen, Bruening synthesized and characterized a series of pseudo-five coordinate cyclometallated model complexes that closely resemble unstable transition states. This research is the groundwork for the design of better catalysts that can be used to speed up the industrial manufacturing of common household products such as shampoos and dish soap.

“Characterizing model systems that mirror these transition states will aid in the design of better catalysts for a range of organic transformations,” said Bruening.

The chemistry major is not new to presenting her research. Since last summer, Bruening’s presented at the ACTC Summer Chemistry Research Symposium, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), and the Sister Seraphim Gibbons Undergraduate Symposium — as well as alumnae and trustee events.

These experiences have honed Bruening’s public speaking skills and boosted her confidence as a science scholar.

“I love doing research and working in the lab, but it’s a completely different experience to try and explain that work to other people — and even to other scientists,” she says. “I also feel that I’m better able to understand other scientists’ work, because I’ve had to think through how to explain my work.”

That higher comprehension has its benefits in the classroom, too. “It certainly comes more quickly so I can get to the deeper questions faster,” says Bruening.

Only a sophomore, Bruening is younger than many of her presentation peers, which happened simply because she asked.

“If I hadn’t asked to do research after my first year, I probably wouldn’t be doing anything until this summer. But now I’ll have another whole year of experience,” she says. “So if you're interested in research, talk to your professors. Get involved. There are plenty of research opportunities here, but you need to ask.”

The 28th Winchell Undergraduate Research Symposium was held in conjunction with the 82nd Annual Meeting of the Minnesota Academy of Science on April 25 at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul. At the symposium, 104 students presented 88 research topics in disciplines ranging from cellular and molecular biology to physics and computer science.

In addition to the presentations, students attended a keynote lecture on “Building Cell Simulators” by David Odde, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. Students also participated in breakout sessions including an interactive talk on “Salaries in the Sciences,” a panel discussion on “What to Expect in Graduate School,” and conversations with job recruiters.

More about the Winchell Undergraduate Research Symposium:

The Annual Meeting & Winchell Undergraduate Research Symposium provides a forum for undergraduate students to present research in the sciences, learn from professionals in fields they aspire to enter, and receive recognition for their accomplishments. More than 175 students, research advisors, members of MAS, faculty members, and other interested members of the community attend the symposium each year.

By Sharon Rolenc