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K-State Today

March 31, 2021

Doctoral student in chemistry named honorable mention for NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Arnaldo Torres-Hernandez

A Kansas State University graduate student in chemistry has earned honorable mention honors from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program for the second time.

Arnaldo X. Torres-Hernandez, Puerto Rico, who is seeking a doctorate in chemistry, is a 2021 honorable mention recipient of the fellowship. He also earned honorable mention recognition in 2019 while a student at Pontifical Catholic University Puerto Rico.

The fellowship supports and recognizes outstanding students conducting science, technology, engineering or mathematics research as they undertake master's or doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. The program was established in 1952.

Torres-Hernandez's current research focuses on total synthesis of natural products called balgacyclamides. These products have interesting biological activities, such as toxicity toward malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum K1, Leishmania donovani, and Trypanosoma brucei. Balgacyclamides also have penetration into lung and colon cancer cells.

"After I access the total synthesis, I'm planning to explore how we can use this amazing natural product for drug delivery, especially into lung and colon cancer cell lines," Torres-Hernandez said.

With plans to graduate in May 2024, Torres-Hernandez would like to land a postdoctoral position in total synthesis of natural products and then remain in academia to teach and conduct research.

At K-State, Torres-Hernandez is a member of Phi Lambda Upsilon, the national chemistry honor society. While a university student in Puerto Rico, he received several honors for his undergraduate research, including travel awards to the American Chemical Society National Meeting & Expo, the Emerging Researchers National Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and to the annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students. Other honors included the President's Award for a high GPA; the Sor Isolina Ferré Award, which recognizes excellence in social-religious work during a student's years of studies at Pontifical Catholic University; the Luis Torres Nadal Award for his work with a university theatre group; and membership in Phi Kappa Phi honor society.

Inspired by an uncle and a cousin who are deaf, Torres-Hernandez is taking American Sign Language classes at K-State. He hopes to one day be able to teach chemistry, especially organic chemistry, to deaf students.

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