University of Richmond Student Receives Beckman Scholarship to Research Catalysts Important in Pharmaceutical Industry

March 26, 2020

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND — Sophomore Julia Vidlak, of Williamsburg, Virginia, has been awarded a prestigious Beckman Foundation Scholarship to pursue her research in organometallics. Vidlak is majoring in chemistry and minoring in dance.

Miles Johnson HeadshotUnder the mentorship of chemistry professor Miles Johnson, Vidlak’s undergraduate research focuses on the synthesis of cost-effective and sustainable materials for cross-coupling reactions, which are important in the creation of a variety of pharmaceuticals. Vidlak is specifically working with nickel as a metal catalyst to develop new chemical compounds. The cross-coupling reactions she and Johnson are researching have played a pivotal role in the synthesis of new pharmaceuticals for decades and represent some of the most powerful tools at the disposal of medicinal chemists.

“My research focuses specifically on the synthesis of ligands, which are molecules that bind to metals, to improve cross-coupling reactions catalyzed by earth abundant metals such as nickel,” Vidlak said. “Earth abundant metals are cheaper, and also believed to be comparatively less toxic to the environment than more commonly-used metals for catalysis such as palladium.”

VidlaJulia Vidlak Headshotk’s scholarship is part of a larger award to the University of Richmond from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, which supports student research in the sciences. She is also a Richmond Scholar.

“This award affirms my dedication to my research and will provide me with the opportunity to continue to develop independence in my work,” said Vidlak, who plans to pursue a M.D.-Ph.D. program, which provides training in both medicine and research, following her undergraduate career at Richmond.