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Chem major's capstone research gets boost from Drinko grant

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Kelsey Kraft

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. (WC)-- Funds from a Drinko Center Research Grant were able to provide Westminster College chemistry major Kelsey Kraft with additional lab necessities to study the chemical composition of industrial hemp.

As her senior capstone research project, Kraft analyzed Cannabis sativa—the plant commonly known as hemp—and its chemical constituents cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

“Hemp and marijuana are sub species of the plant Cannabis sativa (L.), and they often get lumped together as one plant. By using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), I am looking at hemp products that consumers can buy from any convenience store and analyzing the THC and CBD in them,” said Kraft, a senior from Warren, Pa.

The research topic was timely, Kraft said, considering that this election year, five states—Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota, Mississippi and Montana—voted in favor of some form of marijuana legalization.

Kraft said her project built upon the research of 2018 graduate Nathanial Cavlovic, who researched the HPLC laboratory methodology for his senior capstone.  Kraft’s research was conducted under the mentorship of Dr. Helen Boylan, professor of chemistry at Westminster.

“Dr. Boylan has been a great source of support within my research and my Westminster College career,” Kraft said. “When I troubleshoot the HPLC, she is there at all times to give me the next advice or step to try.”

At Westminster, the final component of liberal studies is a senior study, or capstone, course.  The capstone is a four-semester-hour course within the major designed to provide an opportunity for students to evaluate and assess the strengths and limitations of their major field. The capstone experience permits opportunity for structured reflection on the value of education in and beyond the major and provides an opportunity to strengthen communication and problem-solving skills.

“Conducting this research gives me a huge advantage in the workforce,” said Kraft, who hopes to begin her career as an analytical chemist or forensics chemist. “I now have this experience with the HPLC, hemp, CBD/THC and general laboratory procedures because of the research I am doing with my major.”

Westminster’s Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research financially supports undergraduate research through various grants aimed at either the undertaking of research and creative projects at Westminster College or the external presentation and dissemination of research and creative works at conferences.

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