Soon to be Published: Linden Alumna’s Research to Support Green Chemistry
Toni Spilfogel, who graduated from Linden in 2018, returned for a distanced, masked, outdoor visit on October 20th. She reconnected with many teachers and students, but the highlight was reuniting with her science teacher, Biljana Cavic, to share highlights of her research.
International Symposium on Halogen Bonding
Toni has just embarked on her third year pursuing a BSc in chemistry at McGill University, where her career is already distinguished: After presenting her research this week at the International Symposium on Halogen Bonding, the organizers were so impressed with her work as an undergraduate student, that they created a special award recognizing Toni’s outstanding contribution.
“In your first year at university, it can be hard to build connections with your professors because of the class size. My largest class was 700. Linden gave me an advantage because I knew how to interact positively with teachers, in person and over email. I wasn’t afraid to answer or ask questions. Sometimes I would ask questions on behalf of classmates who were too intimidated to ask for themselves! In that class of 700, the professor knew my name.”
A Green Summer
Toni explored opportunities over the summer, which led her to The Friščić group, part of the McGill University Chemistry Department's push in Green Chemistry. Their principal interest is in developing and exploiting solid-state, solvent-free and near solvent-free reactions for the purpose of cleaner and more energy-efficient synthesis. She reached out to Dr. Friščić in order to join the group. He paired her with Dr. Hatem Titi, with whom she collaborates on a daily basis.
Her research is focused on solid-state self-assembly of substituted porphyrin systems via halogen bonding interactions. “Porphyrins are a class of organic molecules that have many different applications,” explains Toni. “They are actually what is responsible for the red pigmentation of heme and the green pigment of chlorophyll. They also can be used in supramolecular chemistry where they can be functionalized, meaning that molecules can be added to the porphyrin ring at different specific positions. We looked at how adding halogen atoms at these functional sites can lead to different repeating patterns and frameworks.”
The Linden Advantage
“Linden prepared me well by going above and beyond in terms of what was covered in the math and science classes,” said Toni. “I was already familiar with some of the material, and had a very solid knowledge base in chemistry and physics compared to some of my peers.”
During her Linden visit, it was hard to tell who was more excited, Toni or Biljana, as they talked animatedly about Toni’s research project. Toni pulled out her iPad to share her slides. Biljana was overcome with pride at the accomplishments of her student.
“Toni’s passion is extraordinary,” Biljana said. “And we should all be very, very proud of her.”