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HCC students are published in a chemistry journal

Current and former Highland students, along with Brendan Dutmer, Ph.D., Dean, Natural Science, and Mathematics, at Highland Community College had research work published in a June issue of The Journal of Physical Chemistry A.

The research publication is titled “Additivity of Diene Substituent Gibbs Free Energy Contributions for Diels–Alder Reactions between (F3C)2B = NMe2 and Substituted Cyclopentadienes,” and is available to read at

The research took place from the fall 2019 semester to the spring 2021 semester. Dr. Dutmer said the research was part of an Honors Program project. During the research, Dutmer and students, Austin Flemming, Abby Strominger, and Brooke Sutherland, worked together to study reactions similar to Diels–Alder reactions found in the organic chemistry II course.

More specifically, the team probed electronic and spatial preferences of Diels–Alder-type reactions involving an aminoborane (with boron double bonded to nitrogen), replacing a standard carbon-carbon double bond in the prototype reaction.

“The research we performed helps build comprehensive knowledge in the field of chemistry,” Dutmer said. “The students have benefitted through additional learning, real-world experience, discovery, and graduate/professional school preparation. The article publication is evidence that HCC is invested in activities where students and faculty actively build their future together.”

Austin Flemming of Freeport has one more year left in his studies at Highland before furthering his education to study pharmacology.

“The research gave me more depth into the world of chemistry and how research is done from start to finish,” Flemming said.

Brooke Sutherland of Davis, adds, “I am currently at UW-Platteville (UWP), majoring in biology with an emphasis in Health Sciences. After my bachelor’s, I hope to get into a physician’s assistant program. Doing this organic chemistry research project helped prepare me for biochemistry labs at UWP and will add to my resumes for (physician assistant schools). HCC was a great stepping stone for me. I do not think I would have been able to do such an in-depth research project at any other community college around here.”

Abby Strominger of Lena is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz. She said smaller classes at HCC allowed her to receive a more personalized education to make connections with instructors and her peers.

“Working on this project, I gained a more in-depth understanding of Diels–Alder reactions, computational chemistry, and undergraduate research as a whole,” Strominger said.

Dutmer said he and the students worked on the project with Thomas M. Gilbert a professor at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., where Dutmer and the students were able to remotely utilize their computational lab space.

Highland Community College classes start on August 16. For a complete listing of fall semester classes, view the searchable schedule at To learn more about registering, course offerings, or Highland, call 815-599-3573.