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UW Student to Make Research Presentation at Posters on the Hill in D.C. April 29-30

April 23, 2019
woman with her arms in sleeves for scientific equipment
Rachel Tenney, a UW junior from Casper majoring in chemistry, works in a nitrogen atmosphere glove box in the Hulley Research Lab at UW. Tenney will attend Posters on the Hill April 29-30 in Washington, D.C. She is one of 60 students nationwide chosen to present her research through a poster presentation. (Elliott Hulley Photo)

Miss Tenney is going to Washington.

Rachel Tenney, a University of Wyoming junior from Casper majoring in chemistry, was selected to participate in Posters on the Hill April 29-30 in Washington, D.C. She will present her project, titled “New Approaches to Hydrocarbon Feedstock Conversion: Bifunctional Pd Complexed for Tunable Heterolytic C-H Activation.”

C-H activation, the process of breaking the bond between carbon and hydrogen in an organic compound, is an important reaction in the conversion of petroleum feedstocks.

“A great deal of potential value from hydrocarbons in petroleum feedstocks (e.g., methane) is ultimately wasted due to a lack of economically competitive strategies for converting these feedstocks into more useful products,” Tenney explains. “Our laboratory is studying different fundamental ways for tuning and controlling hydrocarbon functionalization, the process of converting smaller hydrocarbons into larger (and more valuable) ones.”

Her research is funded by the UW Science Initiative’s Wyoming Research Scholars Program (WRSP). Tenney says she receives a research stipend for 20 hours of work per week as an undergraduate research associate. She also receives $2,500 in travel and research support funding.

Each spring, the Council on Undergraduate Research hosts an undergraduate poster session on Capitol Hill. Of 360 applications submitted nationwide, 60 students’ poster projects were accepted to Posters on the Hill, Tenney says.

At this event, members of Congress and their staff members learn about the importance of undergraduate research through talking directly with the student researchers involved in these programs.

“Yes, we will be meeting with congressional representatives and staff from many states including Wyoming, and we have separate meetings scheduled with Rep. (Liz) Cheney and Sen. (John) Barrasso,” Tenney says. “We would like to convey the importance of both undergraduate research and graduate research, as they are both linked together and demonstrate a symbiotic relationship.” 

Tenney credits her faculty adviser, Elliott Hulley, a UW assistant professor of chemistry, and fellow student William Christman, a graduate student in chemistry from Pueblo, Colo., with being very encouraging and helpful as she works on her research project.

“While I have quite a bit of autonomy on the project, both Elliott and Willie have made themselves available to answer questions, look over data and provide insight into the process and future steps in continuing this research,” she says.

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