ESP Biography



MATT YARNALL, Amherst College Junior in Biochemistry and History




Major: History and Biochemistry

College/Employer: Amherst College Student

Year of Graduation: 2020

Picture of Matt Yarnall

Brief Biographical Sketch:

Not Available.



Past Classes

  (Look at the class archive for more.)


Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry in Splash 2018 (Nov. 17 - 18, 2018)
In this class we will be studying the fundamental building block of life: carbon. From the 118 elements on the periodic table, life on earth has continually utilized carbon to form the foundation of its cellular membranes, catalytic molecules, and genetic material. Indeed, close to 20% of human body mass is entirely carbon. To understand the ubiquity of the carbon atom, we will begin by analyzing its unique and durable bonding properties. Next, we will study carbon’s versatile geometry through an analysis of atomic orbital hybridization. We will then take a step back to look at how carbon’s properties allow it to form the bedrock of larger organic molecules comprising the other building blocks of life: Oxygen, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus. In the second half of the class we study the relative stability and reactivity of organic molecules. In this vein, will discuss partial charges/electron distribution, molecular resonance theory (delocalized pi orbitals) and steric strain. We will finish the class with an analysis of functional groups: the atom(s) with which make organic chemical reactions possible.


Organic Chemistry II: Reactions of Small Molecules in Splash 2018 (Nov. 17 - 18, 2018)
In this second installment of my organic chemistry series, we will be studying how small carbon-based molecules react with one another to form novel chemical products. We will build off topics of partial charges, molecular resonance, and steric strain (discussed in my “Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry” class) to understand what motivates certain molecules to react with one another and not with others. We will begin our study by studying the simplest molecular reaction: the acid/base reaction (exchange of a proton). Next we will look at simple nucleophile/electrophile reactions, including SN1 and SN2 reactions. We will also analyze what makes a good nucleophile (electron donor), and use this knowledge to predict which molecules might interact with one another. Much of this part of the course will be focused on transition and intermediate states–the series of momentary stages molecules go through as they are converted to products. Our knowledge of transition states will allow us to understand the conditions under which certain reactions can occur or be inhibited, as well as how those reactions can be catalyzed by enzymes. To end our class, we will analyze the most versatile functional group in organic chemistry: the carbonyl (carbon double bonded to an oxygen). The carbonyl group enables a plethora of chemical reactions, and is indispensable to the creation of large biomolecules in cells.


Organic Chemistry III: Synthesis of Carbon-based compounds. in Splash 2018 (Nov. 17 - 18, 2018)
In the final installment of my organic chemistry series, we will use our knowledge of molecular reactions to plan the synthesis of carbon-based molecules of our own choosing. “Synthesis” entails a series of tightly controlled chemical reactions which enable us to create and alter a small molecule; the efficient synthesis of such molecules has wide reaching applications in fields stretching from industry to pharmacology, This course will provide an overview of synthesis techniques: when to add nucleophiles to expand the size of a molecule, how to convert one functional group to another, and how to eliminate extemporaneous parts of a molecule to attain to a final product. We will center our study around the carbonyl group and its derivatives, as these groups provide the centerpiece of most synthesis strategies. This course, while far from comprehensive, should provide you with an understanding of how an organic chemist sees and shapes the molecular world. I hope you leave this course with an appreciation of the beauty of the molecular world and the laws which govern it.


Controversial Archeology: How Greece Lost its Marbles in Splash 2018 (Nov. 17 - 18, 2018)
The Parthenon in Athens is perhaps the most iconic structure in the western world. It is seen by many westerners as a monument to democracy, education, and civilization. The Parthenon was once adorned with the finest marble statues of the classical world, depicting the adventures of the mighty Greek gods and goddesses: Zeus, Poseidon, Hermes, and of course–Athena. Yet today, the Parthenon has been stripped of its marbles, it stands on the acropolis, bare and unornamented. How could this have happened to the greatest architectural masterpiece of the western world? In this class we will learn about the incredible life story of the Parthenon marbles. We will meet a fascinating early archeologist named Lord Elgen, who won an entire war in Egypt so he could controversially strip the marbles in the early 1800s. We will uncover how Greece responded to Elgen, how the debate over the true ownership of the marbles is still raging, and where the marbles are today. This class will illustrate how controversial archeology can be–once the hatchet has been unearthed, it is not easily buried.


Writing the Past: The Theory and Practice of History in Splash 2018 (Nov. 17 - 18, 2018)
History is a fascinating discipline that allows us to study the rise and fall of empires, the accomplishments of great individuals, and change of societies over time. We study history to gain insights into the present political/societal moment–and so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. But what exactly is history? Carl Becker answers this question: “History is what the present chooses to remember about the past.” Becker’s point is very problematic if we want to discover what actually happened in the past; if history is an incomplete recollection of the past, then how do we discover what actually happened so we can learn from it? How do we get to the truth? In this class, we will be trying to answer the above questions. To do so, we will be introduced to the field of “Historiography,” the study of historical theory and methods. We will look at a couple historical case studies, and have time for discussion at the end. I would highly recommend anyone interested in history to take this introduction to historiography; an understanding how to study human experiences in the past–and the historical events which connect them– is indispensable to the modern historian.


Nationalism in Modern Turkey in Splash 2018 (Nov. 17 - 18, 2018)
The Republic of Turkey is the most diverse country in the modern Middle East. Its over 80 million citizens hail from across eastern Europe, the Balkans, Asia Minor, and the Arabian world. Turkey’s diversity is attributable to its unique geopolitical position: it sits at the crossroads of Europe and west Asia, and has historically been an intersection of innumerable peoples, cultures, religions and ideas. Due to this incredible diversity, Turkey has been continually faced with the deceptively simple question “Who is a Turk?” over its 80 year history. This question is highly political, as it relates to how Turks understand themselves in the broader context of the world. Are all Turks Muslim? Are they European? Are they Western or eastern? Can they be all these identities or do they have to choose one? In this class, we will be looking at how Turkish politicians have defined what it means to be a “Turk” and how this has related to their broader political agendas. We will be focusing on two Turkish politicians specifically: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the founder of Turkey and its first president) and Racep Erdogan (Turkey’s current president). Understanding the struggle for national identity in Turkey has never been more urgent than today, as Turkey is undergoing rapid political change and shifts in collective consciousness.


Medicine of the Future: Discovering the Cure to Cancer in Splash 2018 (Nov. 17 - 18, 2018)
Cancer is an inevitable part of Human life. This phenomenon occurs because the human genome mutates innumerable times a day, and eventually these mutations will lead to uncontrolled cell growth (i.e. cancer). Despite significant pharmacological efforts over the past seventy years to treat various forms of cancer, most treatments are still insufficient, and many types of cancer are still considered “un-drugable”. But today, we are on the brink of a pharmaceutical revolution that will change how we think about treating cancer. In this class, I will be talking about my own lab research on combating mutated genes that lead to cancer, and how this research is into the larger field of experimental pharmacology. For those interested, I work on identifying potential allosteric sites on oncogenic proteins that can be targeted by small organic molecules as a means to inhibit constitutive activation. (All big science words, I know. I don’t expect you to know any of them, just come ready to learn and ask questions!)


A Treatise on the Modern Meme in Splash 2018 (Nov. 17 - 18, 2018)
To meme or not to meme, that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the Sub to repost The gifs and jokes of yester year Or to create OC against the sea of reposts And in downvoting end them. To OC–to post; To post perchance to meme–ay there’s the sub, For in that post of OC what memes may come, When we have shuffled off this bottom text, Must give us pause–But that the dread of spici’r OC, That undiscover’d board, for whose born no memelord returns, puzzles the will, And makes us rather post the memes we have Than create others we not of? Thus Four Chan doth make normies of us all.