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Sarah Porter

From the Chichester Science Center to Your Medicine Cabinet

Dr. Sarah Porter and her students use chemometrics to make complex mixtures simpler. One dose of cough syrup at a time.

Dr. Porter, an assistant professor of chemistry at Longwood, and Scott Hull, a senior chemistry major, are conducting research that may one day lead to changes in the drug manufacturing process that save pharmaceutical companies-and hopefully consumers-money.

Specifically, the team is looking at ways to simplify the process companies use to analyze the amount of active ingredients in drugs. Active ingredients-such as aspirin or ibuprofen-make drugs work, and pharmaceutical companies must be able to verify that each drug they manufacture contains the amount of active ingredients they claim. The current process to do this is costly and time-consuming, and involves using different methods to separate the active ingredients from flavorings, dyes and other inactive ingredients.

Working with cough syrup, Porter and Hull are developing a method that would streamline this process, ultimately resulting in a single analysis method that could create a cost and time savings for pharmaceutical companies.

"If we are successful, we will have a useful method that can be widely applied in the field, " Porter said, adding that she plans to apply her findings to similar research on gasoline and other fuels in the spring semester.

Real-world research with undergraduate students is one way Porter keeps students engaged in their studies and career pursuits.

"I want my chemistry majors to find something that they love - and to do that, they have to know they have options," says Porter. "They can go to graduate school, of course, but there are a lot of jobs at the bachelor's-degree level in the pharmaceutical industry and the cosmetics industry. There's an entire field for food chemistry, and there are lab positions in hospitals."

Teaching Advanced Laboratory Problem Solving, a two-semester lab and seminar course for seniors, as well as Chemistry 101, a class mostly for freshmen and sophomores, Porter literally gets to know Longwood chemistry majors from start to finish.

"When I went to get my PhD, this is what I wanted to do - teach at a small college that values research, but values teaching most of all," Porter says. At Longwood, "I can get to know my students. I get very passionate about chemistry, and I like to share that with people. Longwood is exactly the type of place where I want to be."

Learn more about Longwood's Department of Chemistry and Physics