Photo by Jennifer Coombes

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Eli Fahrenkrug has been awarded a $55,000 grant from the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund for a project titled “Selective Polymorph Crystallization within the Electrical Double Layer.” The grant, part of the ACS PRF’s Undergraduate New Investigator program, will support three undergraduate research fellowships each summer for the next three summers; two fellowships will be supported by ACS PRF and one will be supported by Colorado College.

Of all drugs produced, more than 60% are orally delivered in a compressed pill or tablet format. More than half of these drugs exist in more than one crystalline structure. “This means that the molecules comprising the crystal (i.e., the pill) are unchanged, but the way they arrange themselves in space differs — this phenomenon is known as polymorphism. Simple changes in crystal structure can often render a therapeutic drug completely ineffective,” Fahrenkrug says. “Controlling polymorphism is notoriously fickle and remains an outstanding challenge in the fields of chemistry and physics.”