In his lab at Harvey Mudd College, chemistry professor David Vosburg seeks to make medicinally useful molecules in new ways, especially biomimetic ways, using chemistry that imitates how such molecules are believed to be formed naturally in plants. This fall, Vosburg will continue his research with a new layer of complexity: He’ll do it in Spanish.
The beneficiary of a Fulbright Scholar grant, Vosburg will spend the 2018-2019 academic year in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Guanajuato, Mexico. He will join the lab of Professor Rocío Gámez-Montaño, an expert in green, multicomponent reactions, and the two will work to develop environmentally friendly methods of producing new molecules for medicinal, agrochemical, optical and educational applications.
Vosburg, his wife and their three children arrived in Guanajuato in July and wasted no time getting to know their new neighborhood. “We’ve walked around the city a lot, exploring various neighborhoods and some of the extensive tunnel network below the city. Soon we’ll visit one of the famous silver mines,” Vosburg says.
Over the last year, the Vosburgs tried to incorporate Spanish into their daily lives as much as possible. Now in Mexico, the family is taking Spanish classes through the summer in preparation for full immersion when they start work and school in the fall.
Vosburg made a point to study scientific Spanish as well, on top of the usual verb conjugations and conversational phrases.
“I found a Spanish translation of an American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute magazine, which has helped me work on my scientific Spanish,” he says. “I knew that a successful Fulbright application would also involve a Skype interview in Spanish, but I did not realize until just before it happened that it would be with five Mexican chemists and would include very technical questions. That interview was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but somehow I did well enough to be selected for a Fulbright.”
Vosburg anticipates developing friendships and partnerships between Harvey Mudd and the University of Guanajuato, as well. “I am certain that my sabbatical in Mexico will lead to personal renewal and professional flourishing,” he says, “and that it will greatly benefit both Harvey Mudd College—which has a growing Latino student population—and the University of Guanajuato beyond the duration of my own stay. My work on green, multicomponent reactions in the Gámez- Montaño group will contribute to our global society as we develop new applications for bis-heterocycles and green chemistry in medicine, agrochemicals, optics and chemical education.”