When University of Missouri senior Grace Liles enrolled at Mizzou, one of the world’s leading research institutions, she joined the chemistry fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma.
Molecular Imaging and Theranostics Center
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Contact: Eric Stann, 573-882-3346, StannE@missouri.edu
Photos by Abbie Lankitus

After joining her high school’s Science Olympiad club in the Kansas City suburb of Plattsburg, Missouri, Grace Liles discovered her passion for chemistry.

“I thought it was cool that you could mix two liquids and make a gel or a solid,” said Liles, who is now a senior at the University of Missouri majoring in chemistry. “I also loved the idea I could make an impact on the world by helping people through my work.”

After Liles enrolled at Mizzou, she joined the chemistry fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma. Being around other chemistry majors with similar interests helped her learn more about her major and the field, including radiochemistry.

Radiochemistry is the branch of chemistry that deals with radioactive isotopes — a building block in the creation of radiopharmaceuticals such as Lutathera®, which targets pancreatic cancer tumors. Mizzou is home to the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR), the world’s most important university research reactor for fighting cancer – making MU the perfect place for Liles to conduct leading-edge research in the radiochemistry field.

“I was able to take an introduction to radiochemistry course taught by Dr. Heather Hennkens, and it included hands-on learning in the lab — something I didn’t have the opportunity to experience during high school,” Liles said. “Before coming to Mizzou, I thought chemistry was just chemistry. But now after being here, I’ve discovered there are many different routes you can take within the field.”

Liles credits Claudia Chambers, former president of Alpha Chi Sigma, with introducing her to two renowned radiopharmaceutical researchers at Mizzou: Carolyn Anderson and Jeff Smith. Liles joined both of their labs during her sophomore year.

Read more of Liles’ story here.