St. Ambrose alumnus Ty Balduf '16 unique research into computational chemistry led to an invitation to present at the 255th American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition earlier this spring.
It was a prestigious opportunity for this second-year graduate student who is pursuing a PhD in Chemistry at the University of Kansas, and he gave his presentation within the same session as one of the winners of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Ben Feringa.
The national meeting typically garners more than 10,000 attendees who come to learn about advances in research and new technological developments. Feringa discussed his prize-winning work in building molecular machines, and two presentations later Balduf discussed his work within the unique specialty he first heard about as a chemistry major at St. Ambrose.
According to the American Chemical Society (ACS), computational chemistry studies "the fundamental properties of atoms, molecules, and chemical reactions using quantum mechanics and thermodynamics. Computational chemists use mathematical algorithms, statistics, and large databases to integrate chemical theory and modeling with experimental observations."
The work of computational chemists "influences our understanding of the way the world works, helps manufacturers design more productive and efficient processes, characterizes new compounds and materials, and helps other researchers extract useful knowledge from mountains of data," according to the ACS.
As an undergraduate, Balduf became interested in the value computational chemistry could have in solving a multitude of problems. On his own, he started reading journal articles and textbooks to learn more and decided to pursue his interest. He added a second major in math and a minor in computer science -- all skills he would need. And, he graduated in four years.
"I thought I'd take advantage of the full experience and get as much out of my education as I could," Balduf said.
Computational chemistry hasn't spread far into undergraduate programs, so much of the graduate work he is doing is challenging. "It is very tough, something I didn't have much experience in before," he said, adding it was a big honor to be invited to discuss his work at the national meeting.
"I was one of the younger presenters in my session. There were only a few graduate students, and the other presenters were full professors," he said.