Maria Vargas-Rivera

MIT Department: Chemistry
Undergraduate Institution: University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus
Faculty Mentor: Stephen Buchwald
Research Supervisor: Alex Schuppe, PhD
Website: LinkedIn


My name is Maria A. Vargas Rivera and I am from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. I am a rising fifth-year Chemistry major at the University of Puerto Rico- Mayaguez. I intend to obtain a PhD in organic or organometallic chemistry, which are my current areas of interest. Outside of campus, you’ll catch me with my friends, playing with my dog, and spending time with my family.

2019 Research Abstract

Total Synthesis of a Phenylbutenoid Dimer for the Study of Huntington’s Disease

María A. Vargas Rivera1, Alexander Schuppe2 and Stephen Buchwald2*
1Department of Chemistry, University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez
2Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Huntington’s Disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that is characterized by uncontrolled motor movements, behavioral disturbance and cognitive dysfunction. There are currently no treatments that may alter the course of HD, although significant effort has been placed on the study of this deleterious condition. Studies show that various phenylbutenoid dimers enhance neurotrophic factors that have been suggested for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. The target compound of this project, a phenylbutenoid dimer, has a known, inefficient synthesis sequence with an overall yield of approximately 1%. In order to optimize the synthetic sequence of this target compound and improve its overall yield, we report the effort to optimize the Diels-Alder step of the total synthetic sequence, which has a 38% yield due to isomerization issues. The reaction step was optimized by conducting various screenings with changes in solvent, solvent concentration, and catalysts, using Proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (1H NMR) for its characterization. Optimizing this reaction step will allow future advancements in the overall synthetic sequence, the improvement of the overall yield of this product and its future use in in vivo studies for HD treatment.