PULLMAN – WSU chemistry major Brian Shuhler received second-place honors and a $1,000 cash prize in a national research competition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in New Braunfels in December.

Shuhler, a senior from Bellingham, originally competed against more than 70 undergraduates from 62 universities and colleges in 30 states in the 2007 Frank and Sara McKnight Prize in Undergraduate Chemistry.

He was among the 10 top students who traveled to Texas for the final competition. Other universities represented among there include Brown, Mercer, Harvard, Maryland, Duke, Dartmouth, Illinois Wesleyan, and Trinity.

Shuhler’s research project, summarized and presented on a poster, is titled “’One-pot’ Synthesis of Polysubstituted Thiophenes.” Thiophenes are molecules common in drug compounds, semiconductors, and optic materials—but they are difficult to make. Shuhler’s research was conducted under the mentorship and in the laboratory of Ming Xian, a WSU assistant chemistry professor.

“Presenting my work at the competition was a great experience,” said Shuhler. “I felt privileged to be invited and to represent lab and school well.” Shuhler said the prize money was used to help with his tuition costs.

“Brian is the best undergraduate researcher I’ve seen in my life, and I’m very glad he joined my research group,” said Xian. The two have published academic papers together, including one that lists Shuhler as co-first author.

The Texas award is not the first for Shuhler. He won the College of Sciences Distinguished Undergraduate Student Award in 2007, and the College of Sciences Research Competition Physical Sciences Novice Researcher Award prior to that.

The McKnight Prize was instituted in 2006 by Steven McKnight, chair of biochemistry at UT Southwestern, in honor of his parents. It is intended to promote undergraduate research in chemistry by recognizing outstanding accomplishment.