qiqi and vito Qi Qi He decided in the third year of her Bachelor of Science studies to do Honours as a way to obtain research and other skills valued by employers.

Interested in the synthesis of different kinds of new compounds related to carbohydrate chemistry, Qi Qi (pictured left) approached Associate Professor Vito Ferro (pictured right) of the School of Chemistry & Molecular Biosciences (SCMB) about a topic.

Using his industry contacts, Assoc Prof Ferro found a project for Qi Qi with Brisbane-based biopharmaceutical and drug discovery company, Alchemia Ltd, as part of SCMB’s new ‘Honours in Industry’ program.

“We had encountered what looked like an interesting chemical reaction, but did not have the time to explore this due to other commercial projects,” Alchemia’s Vice-President, Discovery, Dr Wim Meutermans, said.

“It seemed an ideal honours project in terms of broad skill development (synthesis, purification, structure determination)”.

Qi Qi was awarded a $2,000 Honours scholarship by SCMB and undertook her project under the supervision of both Assoc Prof Ferro at UQ and Dr Norbert Wimmer at Alchemia.

“My project involved solving a real problem of the decomposition of a promising compound in the compound library at Alchemia,” said Qi Qi. “It was really interesting, and it gave me a chance to apply what I had learnt in my bachelor degree program.

“Working at Alchemia’s plant exposed me to new research techniques and valuable practical skills that are specifically used in industry nowadays.”

Qi Qi added that the experience gave her an insight into industrial culture and how to work on her own initiative and as part of a team. Dr Meutermans agreed that working on an industry real life problem gave Qi Qi a sense of direct applicability to it.

Dr Meutermans said that Qi Qi undertook to evaluate an unusual chemical rearrangement involving an undefined kinetic intermediate.

“Qi Qi successfully determined the structure, and it provided valuable information for our discovery efforts,” said Dr Meutermans.

Qi Qi said that during her studies, she received “tremendous support” from her UQ and Alchemia supervisors.

“They helped me to plan what I should do to succeed to solve the problem in my Honours project. They also instructed me in the lab, sharing their knowledge of chemistry, assisting me with different kinds of research techniques and teaching me valuable practical skills.”

Qi Qi graduated with First Class Honours and was planning to go on to a PhD or work as a research assistant.

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