Skip to main content

Combining Basic Science and Scientific Outreach to Build Diversity

September 27, 2016

Anthony Scruse has been fascinated by chemistry ever since high school, when an inspiring teacher used real-world experiments to contextualize the theoretical aspects of the science. In one lab, the class made polymeric super balls; in another, they turned foul-smelling materials into perfumes; in a third, they compounded aspirin from its ingredients. “These experiences solidified my interest in organic chemistry,” Scruse says.

He came to Yale to work with Timothy Newhouse. The two share not only scientific interests but also a strong commitment to diversity. When Scruse first met his future adviser, Newhouse mentioned that he was “interested in mentoring and training a student from an underrepresented background who did not attend an R1 institution,” Scruse recalls. “He also mentioned that he was interested in issues important to me like diversity and inclusion in STEM and in academia at large.” For his part, Scruse is a Fellow in the Office of Graduate Student Development and Diversity and an active participant in science outreach with Yale Pathways to Science and the Yale League of Black Scientists.

His research focuses on the development of new chemical reactions to form carbon-carbon bonds using Earth-abundant transition metals as catalysts. Earth-abundant transition metals include common elements like nickel, cobalt, iron, and copper. “Reactions that use these metals are in high demand, because many transition metal catalyzed processes rely on rare Earth metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium,” he explains.

In some instances these new bonds lead to intricate ring systems that increase the complexity of chemical compounds. These molecules may have a variety of practical applications, like being able to kill cancer cells or interrupt the biological pathways that cause neurological disorders. Studying these reactions will help chemists learn more about the reactivity of catalysts based on Earth-abundant metals and may also lead to new processes that produce large quantities of chemicals while minimizing environmental impact,” Scruse says.

Scruse’s dissertation research is supported by two prestigious awards: a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship and a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. The Ford Foundation offers only 60 of these fellowships each year. The NSF awards 2,000 fellowships annually, chosen from 17,000 applicants.

Scruse majored in chemistry at Morehouse, a small, historically black, all-male liberal arts college in Atlanta, Georgia. While attending Morehouse, he held summer research internships in organic synthesis at Brown University and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.

Outside of chemistry and outreach, Scruse plays soccer, tennis, and volleyball, goes to plays and symphony concerts, and watches Shonda Rhimes TV shows – Grey's Anatomy, its spin-off Private Practice, and the political thriller series Scandal.