LVC Chemistry Grad Earns Merck Research Award

Andres Vazquez Lopez earned his chemistry degree at Lebanon Valley College

Corteva Scholar. Dow Chemical Scholar. Now Merck Research Award recipient.

Andres Vazquez-Lopez ’18 is thriving as he pursues his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Temple University. He credits the support of family, friends, and LVC’s Chemistry Department for his success.

At LVC, Vazquez-Lopez enjoyed the friendly, supportive environment and completed research with Dr. Tim Peelen, associate professor of chemistry. His projects included the synthesis of modified cinchona alkaloids and the Ireland-Claisen Rearrangement by nucleophilic addition to allylic acrylates.

“The small research lab experience gave me room to try and solve problems alone and with other members and have one-on-one interaction with Dr. Peelen as a research mentor,” said Vazquez-Lopez. “The department’s seminars—where they bring in outside scientists to talk about their research—was possibly one of the greatest experiences. We realized the numerous opportunities we could pursue with our science degree.”

His current research in Dr. Sarah Wengryniuk’s lab highlights those post-graduate opportunities. 

“I chose that lab because it was relatively new, and after meeting Professor Wengryniuk, I knew she was a hard worker and wanted the best for her group,” said Vazquez-Lopez. My focus is method development and using Nitrogen Ligated Hypervalent Iodine reagents as a heterocyclic group transfer reagent.”

Another student in the lab told Vazquez-Lopez about the Merck Research Award for Underrepresented Chemists of Color and suggested that he apply. The award recipients are selected based on their research accomplishments, a clear vision for how the award would impact their career and enable them to give back to their community to help fellow underrepresented individuals, an appreciation for how our program would help them despite the challenges they faced as a person of color, and whether they demonstrate the potential to be research pioneers and scientific innovators.

Vazquez-Lopez was named a 2022 recipient of the Merck honor.

“This award has connected me with mentors currently employed by Merck. They are helping me with job applications and interview preparation,” said Vazquez-Lopez.

As a Corteva and Dow Scholar, he attended symposiums where he showcased research to employees and recruiters. He also learned about each company and the innovative work they conduct. 

Vazquez-Lopez is planning for a career as a process chemist with a pharmaceutical or agrichemical company.

“Looking back to when I was in high school, I never really thought I would be where I am today,” he said. “The professors in the Chemistry Department mentored me through my classes, research, and life. They prepared me to think critically and tackle all types of problems.”