Ithaca College Chemistry Major Awarded Fulbright Grant

Ithaca, NY--William Pomerantz, a 2002 chemistry graduate of Ithaca College, has become the ninth Ithaca College student in the last 11 years to receive a Fulbright grant. Pomerantz will spend the 2002-2003 academic year at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) in Zurich, Switzerland, working with Francois Diederich, a leading researcher in synthetic organic chemistry. In addition to a grant from the Fulbright board, Pomerantz will also receive support from a Seydel grant, which the board awards annually to two undergraduate applicants studying in Switzerland.

During his academic year abroad, Pomerantz will be studying the way protein crystals diffract X-rays to produce telltale patterns that reveal the proteins' molecular structure, a process known as X-ray crystallography. Knowing how the proteins are shaped gives clues on how to design drugs and other therapeutic agents that can influence the proteins' effect on the body.

"One methodology for designing potential drug candidates is to look at the active site of an enzyme that is responsible for some function in the body that you are interested in suppressing or activating," Pomerantz says. "Once X-ray crystallography lets you know what the site looks like, the problem then becomes synthesizing molecules to fit the site."

A particular area of interest for Pomerantz is designing drugs that will inhibit the formation of blood clots--a leading cause of strokes and heart attacks.

"It's going to be an honor to have the chance to work with such a renowned chemist as Francois Diederich," Pomerantz says. "I hope to gain a lot of synthetic organic experience as well as make significant headway on some of the projects in his lab."

When his time in Switzerland is done, Pomerantz plans to enroll in a graduate program in bioorganic chemistry at either the University of Illinois of the University of California, Berkeley.

"Will is an intelligent, clever, motivated, hardworking, and highly independent young man," says chemistry professor Glenn Vogel. "He is well respected and liked by his peers and possesses outstanding leadership skills. He'll have a successful career in whatever he chooses."

In addition to Vogel, Pomerantz cites Ithaca College chemistry professor Heinz Koch and Jim McElhanon at Sandia National Laboratories--where Pomerantz served a summer internship--as formative influences.

"Dr. McElhanon helped me improve my synthetic techniques and Professor Koch has been extremely supportive," Pomerantz says. "Because of him, I was able to conduct research in Ulm, Germany, and to give presentations on my research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and the College's James J. Whalen Academic Symposium. In fact, the faculty at the College in general have been very supportive and have all had a great influence on my undergraduate studies."

The Fulbright program was established at the end of World War II to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries, through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills. Fulbright grants are awarded to students, faculty, and professionals who wish to study, teach, or do research abroad. Because full Fulbright fellowships are not available for undergraduate applicants planning to study in Switzerland, a Seydel fellowship, supported by a grant from former Fulbright recipient Paul Seydel, is offered to graduating seniors who have obtained their own placement at Swiss universities.