A UT Arlington junior who found
a way to blend a passion for chemistry with ideals of environmental
sustainability is getting help from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to
further his education and his research.
John Gurak is one of less than
40 scholars nationwide to be awarded the EPA National Center for Environmental
Research’s two-year fellowship for undergraduate study this year. It provides
$50,000 over two years to cover costs of tuition, books, lab supplies, travel
to conferences and other expenses.
UT Arlington junior John Gurak was recognized by the EPA for his work in the area of "green chemistry."
Gurak said he’s thankful for the
fellowship, which recognizes his work in UT Arlington assistant professor of
chemistry and biochemistry Frank Foss’ lab. He will also do an internship at an
EPA lab in summer 2014.
“John Gurak is one of our brightest
undergraduates and his involvement in Dr. Foss’ laboratory is a great example
of the early, hands-on research experiences that create great scientists,” said
Rasika Dias, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and chair of the
department. “We are proud to have him.”
Gurak is working with Foss to adapt
riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, for use as a metal-free catalyst in
oxidative reactions that create heterocyclic compounds, or heterocycles.
Heterocycles have wide-ranging uses and are important to the future of
pharmaceutical development and manufacturing of materials such as
Right now, these chemical
processes are energy demanding and use catalysts that are often costly, rare
and not environmentally friendly. Catalysts designed in the Foss laboratory
operate at room temperature and use the abundant molecular oxygen that we
breath as a fuel. Designing chemical processes that eliminate the use or
generation of hazardous substances is an emerging area known as “green
“I have always thought that if
you do something you should do it the best that you can,” Gurak said. “If we
can do chemistry and make it more sustainable, we should.”
Gurak, a graduate of Denison
High School in Denison, is a recipient of several scholarships at UT Arlington,
including the President’s Charter Scholarship. He also serves as a residential
assistant at the Welch Summer Scholar Program, a five-week residential summer
camp for high school students interested in scientific research. Earlier this
year, he was a co-author on a peer-reviewed paper that appeared in the American
Chemical Society journal Langmuir.
Gurak is an example of the
outstanding students at UT Arlington, a
comprehensive research institution of more than 33,000 students and more than
2,200 faculty members in the heart of North Texas. It is the second largest
institution in The University of Texas System. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.