LabTales 2011, Number 1: New Ginger Based Odors

Page Category:

by Alyssa Schuettepelz (r) & Taylor Glick (l)

Our research involved creating new ginger odors. Unlike other projects in our class, it involved smelling the initial product and comparing its odor to the final product. “A fresh smell is always nice to produce, but our results didn’t always produce a sweet fragrance,” explained Taylor. 

In our research, we generally combined two reactants that each had its own unique smell.  We set up the reaction so that the two reactants combined to form a new ‘ginger-like’ product with water as a by-product.  One reactant was a ketone, the other an aldehyde, two classes of organic compounds that are found in many natural fragrant substances.  For example, three aldehydes we used were cuminaldehyde found in cumin, citral found in citrus plants and vanillin found in vanilla ice-cream. Our hope was that combining these fragrant aldehydes with fragrant ketones would give new hybrid aroma products with structures similar to natural ginger compounds.

In addition to possible new odors, medical uses of gingerols and shogaols - the fragrant/flavor compounds from ginger - are also the subject of current research in the scientific literature.  So another possible application of our research could be the discovery of ginger-based drugs. While some of our reactions proved to be unsuccessful, some show good promise as a possible new general method for making a class of compounds with potential as forensic sensors for hydrogen peroxide.

Alyssa conducted eighteen experiments and Taylor conducted seventeen. Next year, Taylor plans to attend the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI while Alyssa plans to transfer to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.  We both hope to receive degrees in Engineering.  We both graduated from Niles High School in June. Taylor loves playing basketball, tennis, and golf, while Alyssa Schuettpelz is an avid horse enthusiast and loves to run.

“We both had some experience with prior research during our freshmen year for ISEF,” said Alyssa, “but we really learned a lot in this semester of independent work, and the plus was that it was fun too. This experience taught us some basics of research and we strongly recommend this course for students who want to start learning and doing real lab research.”

This summer we are both enjoying conducting research for a stipend under Dr. Murray's guidance.  Alyssa is building on her work that lead to a new method for preparing unsaturated arylidene pyruvates.  Taylor is developing enhanced methods for stilbene synthesis that we anticipate will lead to greater versatility and applicability.