Patrick Gordon

Fulbright Grant Awarded to MCPHS Professor Patrick Gordon

Patrick Gordon

While in Jamaica, the research into more efficient reactions will serve as the basis for a University of the West Indies graduate student’s master’s thesis.

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program has awarded MCPHS Adjunct Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Patrick Gordon a grant to conduct research and teach at the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica. Each year the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board chooses only one or two grantees total, across all disciplines, to pursue their work in Jamaica; Dr. Gordon’s selection among a competitive field is a significant honor.

In a few ways, the upcoming time in Jamaica is a sort of full-circle story for Gordon. He has been drawn back to the area for some time. Gordon is originally from Guyana, the only English-speaking country in South America, a nation whose culture shares a great deal with that of Jamaica and the West Indies. After attending a 2008 conference in Jamaica, when he was working at Simmons University, he decided he wanted to start a chemistry study abroad program there. The recession, however, made that impossible.

So when he saw his American Chemical Society colleague Kimberly Jackson embark on a Fulbright appointment to Antigua a few years later, Gordon was especially intrigued. Around that same time he and a fellow professor at Emmanuel College, where he was then teaching, were developing an exciting chemical reaction that reduced chemical waste in laboratory settings. Her name was Christine Jaworek-Lopes, and she and Gordon wanted to expand their pioneering work. Unfortunately, Jaworek-Lopes was diagnosed with cancer, and she passed away in 2016.

Dr. Gordon decided to make his Fulbright application based on the work he did with Jaworek-Lopes and their colleagues. And now he has the chance to expand on that work. He believes it’s a meaningful way to honor his friend’s legacy, and he’ll get to do it in a part of the world he holds dear.

The research itself focuses on what’s called a Green Aldol reaction. In short, Gordon and his fellow researchers have developed a new way to conduct a common reaction used for in-lab teaching, a way that accelerates the time frame to just three to five minutes and significantly reduces waste. The impact could be quite significant. "It's a well-known fact that it costs a lot more money to dispose of chemical waste than it does to buy the chemicals," Gordon says. And the environmental effects of chemical waste are consequential, so he’s excited that his research in Jamaica will aim to expand upon his success with the green aldol reaction.

Gordon’s work has already benefited MCPHS students, who have been able to go to national conferences and present on the subject. While in Jamaica, the research into more efficient reactions will serve as the basis for a University of the West Indies graduate student’s master’s thesis. And Gordon will be working closely with the school’s faculty and administration, and he will teach as well. He and his MCPHS colleague Michelle Young, MS, Instructor of Chemistry, will work to develop a course around the research. In all, Gordon says, his work will be to "assist in any way I can to redevelop the undergraduate curriculum. I would be suggesting more efficient ways of doing undergraduate teaching, both organic and inorganic chemistry, to minimize some of the waste and to accentuate teaching and learning." And he hopes to expand the international presence of the American Chemical Society, of which he has been a member since 1989.