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SUNY Oneonta professor wins Inventor of the Year Award

The research and work being done by Jacqueline Bennett has been ongoing since 2002, but the advancements and success continue to grow. 

The Eastern New York Intellectual Property Law Association has named the SUNY Oneonta Associate Professor of Chemistry its 2016 Inventor of the Year. Bennett was selected because of her contributions in green chemistry, most notably “Green Synthesis of Aryl Aldimines Using Ethyl Lactate,” a chemical process for which she received a U.S. patent in 2014. 

Chemical processes used to create essential materials often consume large quantities of relatively toxic compounds that are later disposed of as hazardous waste. Bennett invented a new chemical process that’s safer, greener and more efficient than traditional methods used to make imines, a class of chemical compounds that has household and industrial applications. 

Because traditional imine synthesis uses solvents that pose inhalation hazards, Bennett experimented with an alternative solvent called ethyl lactate, a naturally occurring, FDA-approved food additive that breaks down quickly and harmlessly in the environment. Unlike the established method, Bennett’s process does not require heat, agitation, recrystallization or purification. Yet, it forms imines more quickly, producing higher yields. More details on Bennett’s process are available via the United States Patent and Trademark Office

“I’m delighted that Jacqueline is being recognized for her innovative research in green chemistry,” said SUNY Oneonta Provost James Mackin. “In addition to leading the way in this important and growing field, she has been a fantastic mentor for our chemistry students.” A member of the faculty at SUNY Oneonta since 2006, Bennett received the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Environmental Improvement 2011 Award for Incorporating Sustainability into Chemistry Education in recognition of her work on imine synthesis. 

“Green Synthesis of Aryl Aldimines Using Ethyl Lactate” is the result of years of research, including projects undertaken in collaboration with SUNY Oneonta undergraduate students. Bennett’s research group, the BLONDES: Building a Legacy of Outstanding New Developments and Excellence in Science, played a crucial role in testing the new process. “We made more than 200 imines, I couldn’t have possibly done that alone.” she said. 

Two pharmaceutical products, the cholesterol-lowering drug Zetia® and the chemotherapy drug Taxol®, are made from imines that Bennett has synthesized in her lab. The lab has also used the new process to synthesize imines that help inhibit corrosion in metals, destroy bacteria and treat tuberculosis. 

Research at SUNY produces more than 200 new technologies every year. The Research Foundation for SUNY protects the valuable intellectual property generated at SUNY campuses and works with business and industry to translate research discoveries into commercial products that serve to benefit society and spur economic development. “This recognition is a tremendous accomplishment that reflects Dr. Bennett’s expertise and leadership as a SUNY innovator, as well as her commitment and dedication to society,” said Research Foundation President Dr. Jeffrey M. Cheek. 

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