SRC Fellowship Supports Student in Battle against Mosquitoes
Chemical compound could help stop spread of disease
Posted August 2016
A chemical compound - new to science and never before identified - is being investigated by an ESF doctoral student who is working to replicate it so it can be tested as a weapon in the battle against disease-transmitting mosquitoes.
Robert Moesch, who is one year into his doctoral studies in organic chemistry of natural products, said his work is focused on confirming the compound's structure and synthesizing it.
"We talked about this compound before Zika was front-page news," he said, referring to the headline-grabbing virus that has been linked to birth defects. "There are a lot of other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes - the West Nile virus, dengue fever, yellow fever and malaria - that kill millions of people every year."
His work is funded by the SRC Graduate Student Fellowship, which supports ESF graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in technical areas of major national and societal significance. It is one of more than 180 named scholarships administered by the ESF College Foundation, Inc., which provided nearly $1.5 million in scholarships to ESF students in 2015-16.
Brenda Greenfield, executive director of the ESF College Foundation and ESF assistant vice president of development, said the foundation has a long tradition of working with alumni, friends and organizations to provide financial support for ESF students and academic programs. "One of the most important things we provide funding for is scholarships. Scholarship funding allows the best and brightest students to access an ESF education. With that strong educational background, our students go on to do great things in our world."
Moesch's adviser, Dr. Francis Webster of the ESF Department of Chemistry, said the research project is unique to ESF. Webster got involved because of his long collaboration with an entomologist, Dr. Colby Schal of North Carolina State University had identified a chemical compound found in bodies of water - ranging from ponds to puddles to small pools that accumulate in manmade items - that were apparently attractive to female mosquitoes.
"The female mosquitoes lay their eggs in some puddles and avoid others," Webster said.
Webster's contribution was to determine the compound's chemical structure, which he did through the use of ESF's nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. For proprietary reasons, Webster does not discuss the name of the compound or its structure. He does, however, say it is probably derived from oak leaves, which are typically found in the water the mosquitoes choose for their eggs. "The presence of the oak leaves seems to signal to them: 'This is a good place to lay your eggs,'" he said.
Moesch is spending the summer in Webster's lab, working to confirm the compound's structure and produce a synthetic version that Schal can test.
"If we find it attracts females to certain bodies of water, we would create our own sources of water and put larvacides in it. The larvacides generally are not harmful to the environment but, obviously, they are quite harmful to larvae," Webster said. "And that would greatly reduce the number of mosquitoes. It's basic science but it's practical as well. This would be a novel way to control an insect pest, to get them to lay their eggs where we want them. It's much more typical to control insects by spraying insecticides across a broader area."
Moesch graduated from ESF with his bachelor's degree in 2011 and worked four years as a synthetic organic chemist with Alpha Scent, Inc., before returning to ESF as a graduate student.
"The fellowship is a huge help because I don't have much other support, besides my work as a teaching assistant," he said. "It helps me to pay my rent and buy food and do all those other things I need to do to stay alive."
ESF was a natural fit when he decided to continue his education.
"There are a lot of selling points for ESF. I like the very specific academic focus in the chemistry department. And I really liked the social aspect of being able to participate in all the activities at Syracuse University."
ESF Students Make their Mark
- Smile! You’re On Canid CameraESF researcher seeks citizen scientists to help ID photos from trail cameras
- Acorns to Action Strives to Help Victims of Natural DisastersESF students focus on providing resources, knowledge to rebuild sustainably
- ESF Student Part of First-Place Team in Hult Prize CompetitionSayje Lasenberry is member of Farm to Flame Energy team
- Zachary Smith's Commencement SpeechEnvironmental studies major was chosen as student speaker
- Senior Accomplishes Goal: ‘Publish in a Journal’Environmental health major co-authors paper about discovery linked to fighting cancer
- ESF Students Participate in SEA Semester ProgramEFB majors set sail in the Atlantic Ocean
- Class of '17 Joins ESF Alumni RanksDegrees and ESF flags in hand, graduates celebrate accomplishments
- Chemistry Student Wins AwardGraduating senior Curtis Wilhelmsen recognized by environmental division of the American Chemical Society
- ESF Announces Commencement Weekend ActivitiesNumerous events celebrate students’ achievements
- ERE Major Builds Lengthy Resume at ESFTight-knit community, real-world experience made college stand out
- ESF Students Win StoryFest CompetitionTop prize is trip to Brazilian Rainforest for storytelling expedition
- Student from Nepal Finds Her Niche at ESFJyotika ‘Nicci’ Shah plans career in water quality
- ESF Education a Family Affair for Schiavone BrothersThree siblings share a major and a graduation date
- ESF Nordic Skier Competes in World University GamesConducts study on perfluorocarbons between races
- Academics, Athletics, Affordability Lure Soccer Captain to ESFHeather Carl makes her mark on campus
- Daily Adventures Mark Trip to South AmericaRosen Fellowship funds experience of a lifetime
- Student from Italy Finds Motivation at ESF"Here I am constantly pushed to do more"
- Walk on the Wild SideFellowship Funds Trip to South Africa
- USA President Focuses on Building RelationshipsBen Taylor leads 'growth year' for student government
- ESF Junior Honored as 'Unsung Hero'Shewa Shwani to receive award at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration
- ‘Jet’ Lewis Builds Busy Life as ESF SophomoreCalifornia resident says diverse ideologies made ESF stand out
- Dedication to Environment Brings Student to ESF from Mexico'There is no other place like ESF,' freshman says
- Beer Eases Final Moments for Euthanized InvertebratesGraduate student seeks humane method for ending lives of research subjects
- ERE Major Tackles Wastewater Plan in IcelandFink Fellowship Supports Summer Abroad
- 44 ESF Students Spend Summer as DEC Interns‘Phenomenal’ range of work can help launch careers
- Paper Engineering Boosts Student through Semester AbroadGraduate-level classes and travel highlight trip to Germany
- ESF Alumnus Begins Peace Corps Service Caleb Rudge to spend two years in Paraguay
- Dream Becomes Reality for ESF SeniorRosen Fellowship supports summer internship in Stockholm
- Summer on the FarmFink Fellowship sends ESF junior to work on Thousand Islands farm
- SRC Fellowship Supports Student in Battle against Mosquitoes Chemical compound could help stop spread of disease
- ESF Landscape Architecture Students Receive ASLA HonorsHonor and merit certificates presented
- ESF Student Finalist for Olmsted Scholar AwardKathryn Chesebrough recognized for academic excellence
- ESF Graduate Joins Teach for America Peter LeDuc finds passion for teaching at ESF
- Advice for Graduates: Stay United, 'Enjoy Your Wisdom'Class of 2016 celebrates at Commencement
- Two ESF Students Earn SUNY Chancellor’s AwardFoley, Zubair honored for excellence
- Closed-Loop Art: Woodburner Uses Material at HandSenior donates artwork to Student Showcase Symposium
- Honors Student Works with 'Best Thing Ever': ElephantsTravel takes Yvonne Lim to Elephant Nature Park in Thailand
- ESF Ph.D. Student Selected as Junior Fellow in Korea
- The Cheer Fun of ItESF student leads SU cheer team
- Ph.D. Student Appointed to Federal Advisory PanelYang joins National Coal Council
- ‘Great Experience’ Takes Grad Student to BulgariaMLA student spends summer monitoring primitive horse population
- ESF Senior Wins Fulbright Research AwardGabriel Smith heads to Sweden to study fungi
- ESF Grad Student Awarded Rare Book School ScholarshipProgram delves into history of hand papermaking
- ESF Senior Honored at National STEM ConferenceCSTEP student Danielle Berry wins second place for poster
- Meghan JohnstoneTraveler in Australia, Nature Conservancy Intern
- Michael AmadoriAquaponics Research
- Ryan HenrySU's biggest sports fan.
- Lauren AlteioHarvard Forest Program
- Brookhaven National Laboratory InternsCourtney Buckley, Daniel Larkin, Michael Norman and Beverly Agtuca
- Brendan-Michael Galloway Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship
- Lynne BeattyMarine resources workshop participant
- Kristen AnthonyLandscape Architecture student, and SU competitive skier
- Craig LazzarEssay Contest nets ESF Senior $10,000
- Zachary KingBiotechnology Researcher
- Daniele BakerSUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence Recipient
- Greg BoydESF Senior, biodiesel expert
- Khristopher DodsonPublisher of Envi magazine
- Cara StaffordInvasive Plant Technician, Catalina Island
- Irony SadeBiotechnology Major
- April Karen BaptistePh.D. Candidate, Fulbright scholar, ESF
- Leah Dudziak & Lisa RuggeroTwo ESF Students on SU Dance Team