Baylor Doctoral Student Earns Spot on Periodic Table of Younger Chemists
Samantha Yruegas honored as the element erbium on the Periodic Table recognizing her research, teaching and outreach
OVPR Contact: Whitney Richter, Baylor Office of the Vice Provost for Research, 254-710-7539
by Blake Thomas, Baylor Office of the Vice Provost for Research
WACO, Texas (Feb. 13, 2019) – Samantha Yruegas, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in chemistry and biochemistry at Baylor University, has been named to the Periodic Table of Younger Chemists by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). The program celebrates the International Year of the Periodic Table by recognizing 118 young chemists – one for each element of the Periodic Table – who embody the mission and core values of IUPAC through their research, teaching and outreach.
Yruegas was selected by IUPAC to represent erbium (Er), a soft, silvery metallic element, on the Periodic Table of Elements. However, her chemistry research centers on another element, boron (B).
“We’re interested in making molecules that are both new and have utility toward materials,” Yruegas said. “We start with typical organic building blocks and incorporate boron atoms within the structure. Then we explore the reactivity and electronic properties of the resulting molecules. We’d like to be able to make compounds that are a specific color or fluoresce in a specific way so they can be used in OLED [Organic Light Emitting Diodes] products, whether that’s for lighting or for a display like a TV.”
In addition to potential applications in electronics, Yruegas’ work could potentially lead to pharmaceutical advances, as these types of compounds have been used to treat dermatological ailments such as eczema and fungal infections.
“Samantha has not only been an extremely productive researcher in her graduate career, contributing to 12 publications to date,” Martin said, “but has also carved out time for outreach activities at Baylor and in the surrounding community. Her ability to trouble-shoot and efficiently complete projects both independently and with collaborators has led to this success.”
After completing her Ph.D. at Baylor, Yruegas will begin work as a postdoctoral fellow in the Chirik Group at Princeton University under the leadership of Paul Chirik, Ph.D., The Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Chemistry.
Yruegas is passionate about her research, but she brings just as much enthusiasm to mentoring undergraduate students who work alongside her. It was that mentoring experience that helped Yruegas solidify her plans to pursue a career in academic research and teaching.
“The first time I published a paper with an undergraduate was incredibly rewarding,” Yruegas said. “I really enjoy going through the process of discovery with students and helping them overcome the inevitable setbacks that will happen in research.”
A first-generation college student, Yruegas is active in outreach efforts that promote diversity in science. She is active in the local chapter of Women in Science and Engineering, the Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists, and the American Chemical Society’s Chemists with Disabilities committee. She also works with Mission Waco, a local nonprofit, on summer programs that encourage low-income K-12 students to explore scientific fields as possible career options.
“I’m the first in my family to go to college. If you’d asked me when I was 6 years old if I was going to grow up to be a chemist, I wouldn’t have thought that was even an option,” she said. “That’s why I think it’s so important to be vocal and educate people about opportunities.”
For Yruegas, the goal of making new discoveries in chemistry is inseparable from the need to create a culture of inclusivity, where underrepresented voices can be part of the scientific process.
“I’m always excited to talk with anyone with an interest in science and help them find ways to get involved,” she said. “Science is very collaborative and we all have ideas to share. It’s great if we can do that together.”
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Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
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ABOUT THE OFFICE OF THE VICE PROVOST FOR RESEARCH AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
The Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) supports faculty members from all academic units in their research and scholarship. The office provides pre- and post-award services for grants and contracts, facilitates Industry partnerships and collaborative agreements with external entities, manages compliance oversight, provides assistance with intellectual property and technology transfer, and offers marketing and communication support for Baylor research.
The OVPR also manages and operates the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), a three-story, 330,000-square-foot facility focused on interdisciplinary/international research, industry/university collaborations, business incubation/acceleration/commercialization, advanced workforce training, and STEM educational research and outreach.