Two women shake hands on a stage.
Brie Lewis, who earned a President's Award earlier this year for graduating with a 4.0 grade-point average, became a published co-author as part of Dr. Jayaraman Sivaguru's lab at BGSU. (BGSU photo / Craig Bell)

Recent BGSU alumna finds niche in green chemistry through undergrad research opportunities

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Brie Lewis ’24 becomes a published co-author through work with Dr. Jayaraman Sivaguru’s lab

As an undergraduate student at Bowling Green State University, Brie Lewis saw everything click into place.

Lewis enjoyed her chemistry classes at BGSU and had a passion for the environment.

Through one of her classes at the University, Lewis saw firsthand how she could combine the two interests – and how chemistry and sustainable scientific practices can be applied to advance a bigger goal.

“I took an environmental sociology class, and every week we would take visits to different sites, so I was able to see how people could use chemistry to help the environment, which I thought was really interesting,” Lewis said. “I knew I liked the environment and I liked chemistry, so how can I put these two together?”

Lewis, a Perrysburg, Ohio, native, found her answer through an on-campus opportunity, which allowed her to pursue green chemistry research as an undergraduate at BGSU.

During her sophomore year, Lewis connected with a friend who mentioned that Dr. Jayaraman Sivaguru, an Antonia and Marshall Wilson Professor of Chemistry at BGSU and associate director of the BGSU Center for Photochemical Sciences, needed extra help in his lab.

Lewis decided to apply, which ended up setting her on a career path of using photochemical sciences and environmentalism in tandem. As a leader in the field, the BGSU Center for Photochemical Sciences studies the interaction of light with physical, chemical and biological systems to stimulate new technology.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I ended up loving the community in the lab,” Lewis said. “I really liked photochemistry and reactions to light because it’s more sustainable than thermal reactions, which use a lot of energy.”

Now pursuing a doctorate in chemistry at Columbia University in New York, Lewis became a published co-author when research she completed along with BGSU graduate students Kavyasree Manal and Dr. Lakshmy Kannadi Valloli was accepted for publication in the prominent, peer-reviewed journal Photochemistry and Photobiology.

Most notably, the research in Sivaguru's lab explored the scope of a newly discovered photochemical reaction that enabled easy access to the core of Marmycin, a marine natural product that has shown properties as an anti-cancer drug candidate.

“It didn’t work out the way it was supposed to, which ended up being really great because it was a new path for the reaction,” Lewis said. “It was a completely new photocyclization.”

Lewis said working with a well-rounded scientist like Sivaguru was an invaluable experience during her time at BGSU.

Encouragement from Sivaguru helped Lewis to continue striving as a researcher, present at conferences and pursue an advanced degree.

“There were times where I doubted myself and wasn’t sure if I was capable of a lot of things, but he really encouraged me and got me to think about presenting at conferences and thinking about getting a Ph.D,” Lewis said. “He really pushed me because he thought I was good enough.”

Sivaguru said he encouraged Lewis because he saw her talent, work ethic and willingness to collaborate with others, all promising traits for a young scientist.

“In Brie, I saw a talented undergraduate student who was motivated to learn,” Sivaguru said. “She was willing to spend time in the lab and learn from graduate students. This requires one to spend a significant amount of time in the lab. In fact, she was always eager to learn by picking the brains of my graduate students to learn about experimental techniques and worked with them effectively.”

Lewis, who earned a BGSU President’s Award for graduating with a 4.0 grade-point average, said learning in the Sivaguru lab for two and a half years shaped the rest of her academic career and took her to places she never thought possible.

“Presenting at conferences or having a publication is not something I thought would ever happen to me or that research would take me that far,” she said. “When you’re a student and think about finding peer-reviewed sources, you never think, ‘Oh, one day, I’ll be the peer-reviewed source.’

“Research, in general, sounds really intimidating at first, but you really can’t gauge it until you try it.”

Four people pose for a photo.
Brie Lewis '24, center, poses for a photo after winning a President's Award during her senior year at BGSU. (BGSU photo / Craig Bell).

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Media Contact | Michael Bratton | | 419-372-6349

Updated: 07/10/2024 03:07PM