|THE KEENE STATE COLLEGE MAGAZINE FOR ALUMNI AND FRIENDS||VOLUME XIX NUMBER 1 Fall 2003|
Chris Rinaldo '04
When someone starts a conversation discussing derivatives, compounds, and synthesizing heteroporphyrins, the first response is usually, "what…hetero-who?" Not for Chris Rinaldo, a senior chemistry major at Keene State, who relishes the challenge and discovery of solving problems in science.
"Chemistry is a combination of craft and knowledge," explains Chris, a native of Albany, N.Y. "When you start to work in the lab, you have to have a certain level of skill, but at the same time you have to be knowledgeable about what you're doing." The combination, he says, is craftsmanship, something that Chris has refined since his early days in high school, where science was always fascinating, but the notion of getting your hands dirty was even better
With faculty encouragement to look beyond his immediate goals and test his limits in science, Chris applied for and was accepted to join a ten-week research team last summer at the University of Connecticut as part of the National Science Foundation – Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program.
The program's principal objective is to expose under-graduates from primarily non-Ph.D.-granting institutions to a stimulating research environment. It is a highly selective program, according to Dr. Amy Howell, REU site director at UConn. "We receive 70 to 100 applications and only end up accepting around 13 students," she said.
Chris described the experience as intense, "from doing research only a couple of hours, once a week, to doing it every day was different. We got the chance to work in the lab all day and actually did the research. As students, you usually don't get that opportunity."
During the ten-week curriculum, Chris was involved in a research project holding the promise of improving cancer therapy. Alongside third-year graduate student Katherine Lara and REU faculty advisor and assistant professor Dr. Christian Bruckner, he worked on the exploration of a possible type of cancer treatment – photodynamic therapy. Dr. Bruckner explains photodynamic therapy as "the combined use of light and a drug to cause a biological effect, thereby killing the diseased cell."
"Chris prepared a number of novel compounds; he isolated, purified, and analyzed these new compounds and measured their optical properties," explained Dr. Bruckner. "Chris developed an expertise and independence very quickly."
According to Dr. Bruckner, the purity of the compounds and the quality of Chris's data were such that their work was submitted a few days after the end of the REU program, was accepted without any changes, and appeared in print less than two months after the submission date. Chris was recognized as co-author in the weekly international journal Tetrahedron Letters.
After commuting to campus every day from Hancock, N.H., to attend classes, Chris travels back to Hancock to work at the Sargent Center for Outdoor Education, a facility designed to help children and organizations grow through positive learning experiences outdoors. Chris has shown he's not a stranger to hard work. He works as the night watchman, giving children medicine and responding to any emergencies that arise.
After graduation, Chris and his girlfriend, a California native, hope to enroll in a graduate school on the West Coast. However, one thing stands in the way of the application process: In searching for graduate schools, Chris has yet to determine what areas of chemistry intrigue him most.
"These are questions that I'm answering for myself too," explains Chris. "I'm not really sure. I want to get more experience in everything."
Still, there is one regret he'll have after his tenure at KSC – not being here to benefit from the new $23-million Science Center, set for completion in August 2004.
"I wish I could be here to enjoy it," laughs Chris. "Just seeing the progress is exciting. To know that it's going to make being a chemistry student much more enjoyable in terms of having more opportunities, in a more comfortable and safe environment – that's exciting."
Still, he's made the most of the resources he found at Keene State.
"Before I came here I thought chemistry was really interesting, but what I really wanted to do was teach," said Chris. "Although teaching still interests me, I have this thing right here in front of me, where I can go to class and learn something new or see something interesting and exciting every day. I enjoy studying this so much, so why stop?"
Dalya Qualls is an intern in KSC's Sports Information office.