Chemistry major Ansel Nalin has received the 2013 Norbert L. Wiech Award. The award is presented annually to an outstanding junior who has excelled in academics and undergraduate research at the University of Notre Dame. The award was established by Norbert Wiech, a 1960 Notre Dame alumnus who has focused the majority of his professional career on drug development, especially in the area of rare diseases.
Since August 2011, Nalin has been working in the laboratory of Richard Taylor, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and associate dean for research in the College of Science. Taylor's research group is developing new methodologies to synthesize polyketide natural products, which are an important class of compounds that are studied for their potential use in pharmaceuticals. Nalin specifically works on the ether transfer reaction, which is used to form structural units of specific natural products. By optimizing new activating conditions for ether transfer, its potential applications have been expanded in the synthesis of diospongin A and diospongin B. Diospongin is a natural product that has been reported to inhibit bone resorption, and may be beneficial in treating osteoporosis. In addition to his work in Taylor's lab, Nalin completed an internship at the Center for Pediatric Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine, working in a molecular biology lab during summer 2011.
Nalin is a dedicated student and has been on the Dean's List every semester of his college career. Along with the time spent on academics and research, he successfully balances an extremely busy schedule. He has tutored freshman in chemistry and physics, and has served as a teaching assistant in a biology lab. He also volunteers at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, participates in several campus ministry organizations, and is an active member of his dorm, Keenan Hall.
After Nalin graduates from Notre Dame, he plans to enter a combined M.D./Ph.D. program. As a physician-scientist, he hopes to either continue research in synthetic organic chemistry or explore opportunities in biochemistry and immunology.