Fourth-year honours chemistry student Max Landry says he didn’t know what he wanted to study when he first started at Mount Allison but found his way to the lab.
“For me, chemistry is very conceptual. It has a lot of overarching ideas that I’ll be able to take with me once I leave MtA,” he says.
Landry, who was recently awarded a student research scholarship from the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation, is spending his second summer on campus as a student researcher with Dr. Steve Westcott, Mount Allison Chemistry Professor and Canada Research Chair in Boron Chemistry. His research in part looks at compounds in something many of us are familiar with, chili peppers.
“The active ingredient in chili peppers, what makes them so hot, is capsaicin. It has been found to have many medicinal properties, most notably as a potential anti-cancer agent,” he explains. “The biological properties of boron have also been studied, so my research is looking at making boron-containing compounds with a similar make-up to capsaicin.”
Although in the early stages, this area of research could have significant implications in health care research in the future. Landry spent last summer working in Westcott’s lab with fellow chemistry student Maia Murphy from Nova Scotia. The pair are looking at boron containing molecules and their potential use as antibiotics. They are continuing their research this summer along with individual projects.
“Max’s work with capsaicin and boron compounds has been significant in our lab’s program,” says Westcott. “I am very proud of the calibre of research Max and other students are completing and look forward to following their careers in science.”
From Moncton, NB, Landry has enjoyed attending a small university and gaining hands-on research experience but also stays involved in the campus and wider community. He is on the executive for Best Buddies, a mentorship program that caters to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and volunteers with SMILE (Sensory Motor Instructional Leadership Experience), which sees Mount Allison students pair up weekly with local youth who have a developmental disability at the YMCA. He is also a conversation partner with the MASSIE program, a teacher’s assistant in chemistry, and the Vice President of Chemistry in the Chemistry and Biochemistry society.
Landry hopes to attend medical school following Mount Allison but isn’t ruling out a career in research.
“My goal has always been med school but I’m interested in finding a way to combine my passions for medicine and research.”