The goal of my project was to develop novel fingerprint detection reagents. Prior work by the Joullié group resulted in the discovery of one of these detection reagents, 1,2-indanedione. The mark produced by the reaction of 1,2-indanedione with the amino acids in a fingerprint is visible under the right detection conditions and this effect is well known by the forensic science community. The application of 1,2-indanedione to detect fingerprints, however, is not universal since other detection reagents may leave more visible marks under different conditions.
One of the advantages of working with 1,2-indanedione is its relatively low cost to synthesize in comparison to some of these other reagents. Additionally, while some variants of 1,2-indanedione have been made, it was observed that the database of these variants lacked analogues that could be produced by the relatively recent Suzuki coupling reaction. This motivated an investigation into how effective analogues of 1,2-indanedione synthesized with this coupling reaction would be at binding to amino acids, resulting in the synthesis and study of six 1,2-indanedione analogues.
The project introduced me to a variety of commonly used techniques used in chemistry research, but arguably more important than the technical skill I learned was the failure I encountered. Learning how to troubleshoot and correct problems, such as why an unexpected product formed or how a reaction failed, was something that I learned to think more deeply about as time passed. It also provided a basis for me to improve subsequent reactions, since the conditions I needed to use for my reactions were not necessarily the same as those used in the literature.
This opportunity also helped me connect what I learned in my chemistry classes to its application. The knowledge that might have been tested on an exam became crucial in determining what occurred when I put certain reactants together and identifying what the product of a reaction was, and this research project was helpful in coming to this realization.