Dr. Christopher Turlington of the Hope College chemistry faculty has received a grant from the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund (ACS-PRF) that will help him explore how to develop a “building block” that could be used for new medicines.

ACS-PRF grants support research related to petroleum or fossil fuels, and are specifically for an avenue of research the recipient hasn’t followed before.  Turlington will be studying nitriles, a type of compound generated as a byproduct of plastics made from oil.

Nitriles currently have a variety of applications, ranging from fuel hoses; to disposable, latex gloves; to drugs used to treat diabetes and cancer.  Turlington, who joined the Hope faculty this fall, will be using his $55,000 award to investigate new ways that nitriles might be used in the development of pharmaceutical and agricultural products.

“The way I see this technology is as an enabling strategy to build the basic subunits within larger drug molecules,” he said.  “There are established avenues for constructing medicinal compounds, but the route that I’m developing with nitriles could be more expedient and less expensive.”

The grant is important support for the first-year faculty member, and Turlington is looking forward to starting his research program this coming spring, but the science itself isn’t why he’s most pleased.  Crucially, the grant includes funding so that students — three to begin with — can work with him during both the school year and the next three summers.

“The reason I’m most excited about it is because it lets me work with, train and support more students,” he said.  “I was drawn to Hope because of the college’s strong tradition of involving students in collaborative research with faculty.  Getting this grant gives me an opportunity to do just that.”

Turlington appreciates the value of such experience.  He participated in research at Furman University as both a high school student and undergraduate, and is grateful to mentors who in his case had even included an older brother as well as faculty.  “Now I’m incredibly excited to be able to do the same for Hope students,” he said.

Immediately prior to coming to Hope, Turlington was a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University for two years.  He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry at Furman University in 2010, and his doctorate in inorganic chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015.  He has co-authored several articles published in refereed scientific journals, and made multiple presentations at professional conferences.

The American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress.  ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences.  ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies.  Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.