University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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Jan. 30, 2004

UW-RF Chemistry Professor Receives Research Grant
By Barbara Johnson
UW-River Falls News Bureau

UW-River Falls Chemistry Professor Karl Peterson will lead a research project this spring and summer that will explore the powers of plants to relieve the pain of rheumatism.

Biotechnology junior Brianna Zemke of Deer Park, Wis., and chemistry senior Kelsey Mayer of White Bear Lake, Minn., will participate in the project as student research assistants. According to Peterson, the students will gain first-hand experience in the process of conducting scientific research.

The funding was received from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Research Site for Educators in Chemistry program. The program is funded by the National Science Foundation to foster new scientific interactions between faculty at the U of M and those at undergraduate institutions in the region. The program will provide financial support, technology initiatives and assistance for obtaining additional funding. The grant also offers a series of seminars that features nationally and internationally renowned scientists over the internet.

The project, "Synthesis of Incarvillateine and Analogs," began with interest from UW-RF alumnus Aaron May of Minneapolis and an article found by Peterson in the Journal of Natural Products. The article described the strong pain relieving effects of incarvillateine.

"Incarvillateine is a biologically active compound that was isolated from the plant incarvillea sinenis," explained Peterson. "This wild plant is distributed in northern China and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat Rheumatism and relieve pain." The project will attempt to synthesize the natural compound and structural analogs to understand which features of the natural structure are important for its biological activity.

Peterson plans to bring the research into the classroom to benefit the science students of UW-River Falls. He noted, "The topics that we discuss as part of the introductory organic chemistry courses are imminently important to addressing problems at the frontiers of science and medicine."

Peterson said the project also will demonstrate that UW-RF conducts research that is of the same quality as found at major doctoral universities like Minnesota and UW-Madison.

For more information contact Peterson at 715/425-3209.

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