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Department of Chemistry Undergraduate Education

Undergraduate Research

Reminder to students and faculty:

Please file the Research Course Approval form for each student, each semester. Completed forms should be returned to Scot Wherland in Fulmer 151. Thanks.

Aurora E. Clark

In the Clark lab we use computational chemistry (simulating chemistry on a computer) to answer questions that are difficult, and sometimes impossible, for experimentalists to do:

  1. Help design high density multi-layered information storage devices. Here we perform calculations that determine the optical properties of molecules that are good candidates for media in high-density information storage devices (imagine a DVD that can hold more than a terabyte of data!)
  2. Understand how molecules fall apart. Perform calculations on the decomposition of a wide variety of molecules that are important in our every day lives (e.g., molecules used in electronics)
  3. Model environmental chemistry. Perform calculations on heavy element complexes and model how they travel through environmentally relevant media (water, soil).

Sue Clark

Research in Dr. Clark’s lab is focused on the environmental chemistry of the lanthanides and actinides. Undergraduates can become involved in the study of the chemistry of plutonium in the environment, the geochemistry of uranium and the rare earth elements, uranium mineralogy, and other areas of environmental radiochemistry. Projects range from analytical method development to determination of thermodynamic or kinetic constants.

Philip Garner

The Garner lab provides research opportunities for motivated undergraduates in the area of organic chemistry. Typically, the undergraduate research experience begins with basic training in organic synthesis under the guidance of a graduate student followed by an independent research project. Students are encouraged to begin doing research upon completion of CHEM 427 (or its equivalent). Please contact Dr. Garner ( for more information.

Zachariah M. Heiden

Research in the Heiden lab focuses on using experimental and computational techniques to understand and develop new chemical reactions to solve energy and environmental related problems. Current research projects include:

  1. Investigation of the thermodynamics of hydrogen and hydride transfer for the development of new catalysts with increased selectivities and activities.
  2. To create or break chemical bonds using light to turn on/off catalysis for the promotion of new chemical reactions under mild conditions.
  3. Employ metal complexes capable of reversibly storing hydrogen for the promotion of unprecedented chemical reactions and transformations.

K.W. Hipps

  1. Synthesis and purification of metallorganics. These materials are similar in structure to Vitamin B and hemoglobin. Our end interest is in using these as components in single molecular electronic devices.
  2. Take pictures of molecules! The idea of supramolecular synthons, now well established for crystal design, is being developed in the two dimensional (surface) world by my research group. This research encompasses the design, creation, and analysis of self-ordering 2-D structures.
  3. Ultra-high vacuum (UHV) studies of molecular films. In this project the student will work with films of the order of one molecule thick under UHV (<10 -12 atmospheres!). The student will learn a number of basic techniques that are in high demand in the rapidly growing Nanotechnology Industry

Alexander DeQuan Li

Research in Dr. Li’s lab is focused on conjugation of biomolecules with synthetic molecules for studying nano-bio-materials and innovative approaches to unusual structures and properties. Undergraduates can become involved in the study of molecular design, organic and inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, and polymer science. Projects range from preparation of nanoporous polymers and hollow nanospheres to the synthesis and self-organization phenomena of smart oligomers or polymers.

ChulHee Kang

Several PCPs, such as 2,4,5- and 2,4,6-trichlorophenol (TCP), are primarily introduced into the environment through their use as preservatives in the wood industry, as herbicides in agriculture, and as general biocides in consumer products. They persist in the environment because chloride substitution makes them recalcitrant to microbial degradation. The high levels of EDTA in natural waters are also due to its extensive usage, such as in industrial cleaning, in detergent and in phytoremediation to mobilize heavy metals. In the environment, EDTA occurs in metal-EDTA complexes, most of which are highly recalcitrant. Recently, several enzymes from soil microorganisms have been characterized, which degrade 2,4,5-TCP, 2,4,6-TCP and EDTA. Our on-going research is essential for improving the catalytic efficiency and substrate range of critical enzymes involved in biodegradation of recalcitrant pollutants, targeting effective bioremediation.(

Donald S. Matteson

The two great challenges of synthetic organic chemistry at the present time are the control of stereochemistry and the efficient construction of carbon-carbon bonds. We have discovered a method for the efficient connection of carbon atoms with very high asymmetric selectivity which uses a chiral boronic ester group as the template. We have recently obtained ratios of 1000:1 in favor of one optical isomer over its mirror image. This chemistry is useful for making insect attractants, amino acids labeled with stable isotopes, antibiotics, and a variety of other biologically interesting molecules.

Undergraduate students can work on a variety of possible projects. We are investigating several new processes involving carbon-boron bonds, and there is much simple fundamental chemistry that can be discovered by a student interested in spending a few hours a week doing laboratory work.

Ursula Mazur

Our research focus on controlled self-assembly of molecules via selective noncovalent intermolecular interactions (van der Waals, hydrogen bonding, dipole–dipole interactions) which offers a powerful approach for the development of multidimensional nanostructures which possess functions such as rectifying, switching, and sensing. We employ phthalocyanine and porphyrin molecular photoconductors for constructing stable electrostatically bound 2D and 3D assemblies/aggregates which are of interest for their potential applications in optoelectronic devices and in solar energy conversion. We perform fundamental studies focusing on the understanding of the link between aggregate morphology, molecular structure, and their optical and electronic properties thus allowing these properties to be tuned for a particular application, borrowing ideas from nature where light harvesting aggregates (LHA) are optimized to collect and funnel solar energy to a reaction center. The techniques that we use in our studies include optical and electronic spectroscopy: Raman, UV-vis, XPS, and scanning probe microscopy: AFM and STM. We hope that our contributions for improving the understanding of phthalocyanine and porphyrin self-organization will help to pave the way for constructing functional composite devices for light to energy conversion.

Jeanne L. McHale

The McHale group uses spectroscopy to study electron transfer in interfacial and supramolecular systems, with an emphasis on solar energy conversion using semiconductor nanoparticles sensitized with light-absorbing dyes. Students may enjoy working on the isolation of plant pigments with good light-harvesting properties, or the development of porphyrin aggregates with unique optical and electronic properties.

Techniques include resonance Raman and fluorescence spectroscopy, and the determination of photocurrents and photovoltages in dye-sensitized solar cells.

Peter Reilly

Research in Dr. Reilly’s lab focuses on the development of mass spectrometers to perform novel measurements. In particular, our focus is on the extension of the working range of mass spectrometers from 2×104 to 1×109 atomic mass units and beyond so that singly-charged ions can be mass analyzed with high resolution and mass accuracy. The idea is to directly mass analyze intact proteins, protein complexes, RNA, DNA and even whole viruses and quantify their distributions. Undergraduates can become involved in the development of the spectrometers or the applications. Projects range from analytical methods development to investigation of the fundamentals of mass spectrometry.

Louis Scudiero

  1. Developing new physical chemistry lab experiments Measurements and writing of a handout are part of the project. These new laboratory experiments will be implemented in the advance physical chemistry lab course; Chem. 334.
    1. Step 1: Synthesis of nanowires (Ni) by electro-deposition in anodic alumina membrane
      Step 2: Characterization of the nanowires by atomic force microscopy (AFM) and secondary electron microscopy (SEM). The elemental analysis will be performed through energy dispersive x-ray spectrometry (EDS).
    2. Build and test a hard graphite convention single slice fuel cell.
  2. Study of geometrical and electronic properties of single and multilayer molecular films deposited by Langmuir-Blodgett method on Si substrate. The films will be characterized by AFM and/or STM.
  3. Synthesis of core/shell structures (Pd/Cu) for improved fuel cell efficiency. These core/shell structures will be imaged by TEM and tested by cyclic voltammetry (CV) and chrono-amperometry (CA) in collaboration with the chemical engineering department.

Nathalie A. Wall

Our research focuses on the environmental behavior of radionuclides. Our main goal is to provide valuable data for the detection of nuclear material in the environment, for the remediation of contaminated sites, to ensure the safety of future and existing nuclear waste repositories, and to develop nuclear forensic. Therefore, we study the mechanisms that affect the migration of radionuclides in the environment, including:

  • chemistry of fission,
  • chemical behaviors of inorganic (minerals) and organic (e.g. humic and fulvic acids) colloids,
  • colloid interaction with radioisotopes,
  • nuclear waste from corrosions,
  • isotope ultra-low detections,
  • metal inorganic species detections.

Ming Xian

The core of Dr. Xian’s research interests comprises the desire to combine organic synthesis with bioorganic chemistry to examine, understand, and solve problems of biological and medicinal significance. We are interested in the areas of (1) synthetic methodology development and natural product synthesis; (2) protein molecular recognition and interaction; and (3) the development of new therapeutic agents. Undergraduate students involved in these projects will learn basic organic synthesis skills and the use of modern analytical instrumentation. Moreover students will also be trained to write lab reports and papers, prepare posters, present seminars, and encouraged to take part in scientific conferences. The mastering of the knowledge and the techniques will make students more competitive in their future careers.

Choong-Shik Yoo

Dr. Yoo’s group focuses on extreme materials research at the pressure-temperature conditions of the Earth’s and Joviant planetary interiors, where materials alter their properties in many fundamental ways and, thus, provide exciting opportunities for us to discover new materials, novel phenomena, and exotic states of matter- not present at the ambient condition. Examples include stishovite-like carbon dioxide polymer, metallic hydrogen, superconducting lithium, superionic water, novel metal nitrides, highly correlated f- and d-transition metals and their alloys and compounds, and many more. High-pressure research will ultimately establish a new Periodic Table of the elements with completely redefined chemical and physical properties.

Modern static and dynamic high-pressure technologies coupled with state-of-the-art laser spectroscopy are utilized together with x-ray diffraction and x-ray spectroscopy at national synchrotron facilities. Materials of research interest range from fundamental materials of quantum solids, molecular solids, covalent and ionic solids, and f-and d-electron metals to functional materials such as reactive nanoparticles, hydrogen storage materials, strongly correlated systems, and high energy density solids.