Bridgewater highlights work of computational chemist

Sara Higgins Fitzgerald's field has profound implications for the pharmaceutical sector.
Sara Higgins Fitzgerald's field has profound implications for the pharmaceutical sector. | File photo

Bridgewater College recently highlighted the research and classroom activities of associate professor of chemistry Sara Higgins Fitzgerald, who attended the school as an undergraduate and now specializes in computational chemistry.

“Computational chemistry can be any number of things. At its heart it’s using the computer to ask questions about chemistry, about chemical systems,” Fitzgerald said.

Her field has profound implications for the pharmaceutical sector, allowing researchers to better define the parameters of scientific studies by providing them with better models for the molecules they are working with.

“Research chemists have access to these huge libraries of molecules that they can test, so if they’re interested in influenza, they might run this influenza target against hundreds of thousands of compounds, but every one they test costs money,” Fitzgerald said. “One of the first things I helped them do was decide out of this huge compounds data base that they could pull from — what was a really diverse set of molecules that they could choose and test. And then they could go back and get into the finer details once they saw which types of molecules were working…. If I had one phrase that describes my research it would be a study of the diversity of molecules.”

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