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Dr. Desmond H. Murray, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Andrews University, is founding Director of Building Excellence in Science & Technology (BEST, www.bestearly.com), Editor of the Benton Spirit Community Newspaper (www.bentonspiritnews.com) and Director of the Socrates AfterSchool Project.

I am very passionate about engaging young people in the processes of research, discovery and innovation. For more than ten years, I have provided over 650 students, college and high school, with hands-on early research participation opportunities during the regular school year as well as the summer. The main vehicles for early research participation are (i) the independent research periods (IRPs) conducted during the spring semester for both Grade 12 and college sophomore organic chemistry students, and (ii) the summer research program (SRPs) which provides jobs for students.

Research projects primarily involve synthetic organic chemistry such as developing: (i) hybrid small molecules that are potentially antibacterial, antiparasitic, antipesticidal and antimalarial, (ii) novel dyes that can serves as molecular sensors and probes for analytes ranging from DNA to toxic pesticides and chemical warfare agents, and (iii) new methods for synthesizing conducting organic polymers, biodegradable hyperbranched polymers and organic linkers for hybrid inorganic-organic molecular wires.

I believe that we can no longer afford to wait for students to be in graduate school before they become immersed in real research. Early matters. It is urgently critical that we change when we engage young people in the processes of research, discovery and innovation.

I am endlessly curious about what if! Ideas for new research projects are constantly being scribbled down on paper napkins, writing pads, and any scrap of writable surface. I seek to share this enthusiasm with young minds - high school and college - and give them opportunities to make ideas come alive in the laboratory.

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