Maia Carvalho is on a green field. She smiles at the camera.

What They Learned: Maia Carvalho ‘22

Inspired by her love of baking, the chemistry major and Italian studies minor synthesized a new chemical that can be used to catalyze other chemical reactions.

The inspiration for Maia Carvalho’s thesis came from the kitchen. The chemistry major and Italian and Italian studies minor loves to bake, so she picked synthesis as her topic because that is, essentially, what baking is.  “Just like baking, synthetic chemistry requires attention to detail,” she said. “Even the smallest changes in temperature, time, and ingredient amounts can alter the nature of the final product.”

Carvalho’s thesis, “Synthesis and Characterization of a Bidentate Guanidine-Based Ligand (DIPI-PA),” was the result of a multi-year effort in Professor Rob Scarrow’s lab and resulted in developing a new ligand—a chemical that can bind with metals. “Future work will take our new ligand (DIPI-PA) and investigate how it binds to different transition metals,” said the Haverford Women’s Fencing Team co-captain. “These metal-ligand complexes could then be used to catalyze, or speed up, other chemical reactions.”

What is your biggest takeaway from the project?
I learned that obstacles often arise in scientific research and that problem solving is a big part of research. While doing synthesis work, I discovered that the only way to overcome obstacles was to spend time in the lab trying new ways to solve the problem at hand. Although much of the work for my thesis was done individually in the lab, my thesis highlighted the importance of collaboration. I quickly realized that I benefited from regularly sharing new results with other professors and students. Our weekly group meetings with the Scarrow, Spoors, and Garcia Ramirez labs were a source of many helpful ideas.

What are your plans for the future and does your thesis have anything to do helping to guide your future career path?
Starting this summer, I will work at Snapdragon Chemistry, a Boston-area company that performs contract synthesis for pharmaceutical firms. I feel that the time spent in the lab conducting and repeating experiments for my thesis, along with my overall experience at Haverford, has prepared me well for work after college.

“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.