Roche Symposium Honors Colorado State University Chemistry Graduate Student, 11 Others Nationwide

Note to Reporters: A photo of Genessa Smith is available with the news release at

For the second year in a row, Roche, a leading pharmaceutical company, has recognized a Colorado State University graduate student – one of only 12 students nationwide – as a next-generation chemist.

Doctoral candidate Genessa Smith was honored for her research developing laboratory syntheses of biologically important compounds that have been found in nature. She works with John Wood, the A.I. Meyers Professor of Chemistry in the university’s nationally ranked chemistry department. In the most recent U.S News Best Graduate Schools report, the department ranked in the top 50.

“Genessa’s efforts to design and implement a laboratory synthesis for this highly complex molecule are providing her with exceptional training in synthetic organic chemistry,” Wood said. “When finished with her degree, she will be able to design and implement syntheses of an essentially infinite number of molecules that could be valuable to a vast array of industries.”

Smith was recognized for her work with Citrinadin A and Citrinadin B – two important, naturally occurring compounds. Through her efforts, she assembled a nitrone intermediate suited for advancement to Citrinadin A. Both Citrinadin A and B are metabolites of a marine-derived fungus and show modest activity against leukemia.

Although Citrinadin B is itself unlikely to become a drug, Wood’s students’ efforts to prepare this molecule will provide additional material for study and will generate a number of similar compounds that may prove more interesting than the natural product.

Smith and other graduate students in Wood’s lab serve as mentors for undergraduates. Since 1993, 37 graduate, 28 postdoctoral and 39 undergraduates have done research in Wood’s labs. Most of his former students have gone on to positions in the pharmaceutical industry and several have moved to faculty positions at universities that include Caltech, Cornell and Yale.

Last year, Roche recognized CSU Chemistry Professor Tomislav Rovis and his doctoral student, Daniel DiRocco, for their research accomplishments using organic molecules to create catalysts that make more elaborate molecules for pharmaceuticals that could lead to treatments for cancer and other diseases.

The Department of Chemistry is a Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence at Colorado State. Research doctorate programs are available in analytical, inorganic, organic, physical, and materials chemistry as well as chemistry education. Interdisciplinary programs of study that cross traditional boundaries are encouraged and many faculty members have joint appointments in engineering and life sciences departments across campus.