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Student Research Opportunities

Chemistry faculty members have a wide variety of research interests and offer multiple research opportunities for students. Learn more about these research projects by contacting the professor.

Professor Anstey: Energy Generation & Storage

Student Positions: 1 Spring, 2 Summer
To use our remaining fossil fuels efficiently as well as to transition gradually to alternative energy sources, we must develop new ways of storing and generating energy at the portable small-scale as well as immense grid-scale levels. Professor Anstey's research program approaches these challenges through the lens of synthetic inorganic chemistry and uses elements of chemistry, engineering, and materials science to achieve its goals. The core concept explored is molecular charge manipulation and redox activity. Students will learn the latest synthetic and analytical techniques used in modern laboratories, with a focus on air-free synthesis, battery assembly, and electrochemical measurements. To learn more about these projects, please contact Professor Mitch Anstey at for an appointment.

Professor Beeston: Raman Spectrometry

Student Positions: 1 Spring
The department recently acquired a handheld Raman spectrometer for use in introductory chemistry labs. Raman spectroscopy offers a powerful technique to distinguish and identify substances, including those of interest to law enforcement and security agencies, forensic scientists, museum scientists, archaeologists, geologists, as well as to synthetic, analytical, and physical chemists. Spectra can be recorded for liquids, solids, surfaces, and solutions and can be compared to reference spectra in a library for rapid identification.

In order to incorporate this instrumentation into courses such as CHE 106, CHE 115, CHE 250 (or advanced chemistry courses), some exploratory work is needed to build a spectral library from known substances and to identify and develop suitable experiments, starting with a demo or short experiment that can be incorporated into Chemistry of Art and Artifacts by the end of spring semester. A student taking on this project would become familiar with the technique of Raman spectrometry and its applications, especially in art and archaeology. Proficiency with Windows computers would be very helpful. The instrument is highly portable (pocket sized) making it useful for on-site applications as well as laboratory investigations. (Prerequisites: CHE 115 and CHE 250.) To learn more about these projects, please contact Professor Ruth Beeston at for an appointment.

Professor Blauch: ESI-QTOF Mass Spectrometer

Student Positions: 1 Summer

This research involves the design, synthesis, and characterization of ruthenium complexes containing non-innocent ligands. In such complexes, it is not possible to assign a well-defined oxidation state to the metal. Prof. Blauch seeks to understand the electron distribution between metal and ligand and the influence of that distribution on the reactivity of the complex. Over the years, a series of complexes containing amine ligands (Figure 1) have been studied. Upon oxidation, several of these complexes  (Ru(dipa)22+, Ru(AQ)32+, and Ru(bpy)2(AQ)2+) undergo irreversible reactions to form products and product mixtures that have not yet been identified. The college has very recently acquired an ESI-QTOF mass spectrometer that is ideally suited for determining the identities of these unusually oxidation products. An important series of experiments will involve progressive oxidation of the starting complex with the appearance of new products being tracked with the ESI-QTOF mass spectrometer.

One possible mechanism for the oxidations of these complexes involves a radical intermediate. Upon oxidation, these amine-ruthenium complexes may behave in manner similar to aniline, which polymerizes through a radical cation intermediate. Using techniques similar to those used for the system of aniline polymerization, it should be possible to quench the radical intermediate using compounds such as 4-methoxystyrene or 2,6-di-tert-butyl-4-methylphenol .

Recent work on this project has examined the behavior of Ru(II) complexes containing ligands binding through a phenolate rather than an amine linkage. As with the amine-ruthenium complexes, the ESI-QTOF mass spectrometer will be used to identify the structures of several important oxidation products. To learn more about these projects, please contact Professor David Blauch at for an appointment.

Professor Carroll: 3D Printing for Chemical Education

Student Positions: 2 Spring
This project involves using computational methods (Spartan '16 or other programs), a series of chemistry graphics and CAD programs, and 3D printing to prepare new models for chemical education. Among the possible specific projects are the following: carbon allotropes (graphite, graphene, diamond, C60, nanotubes, nanoribbons, etc.); highly strained structures that cannot be made with ordinary model sets; space-filling models of reactive intermediates; new symmetry models; potential energy surfaces for protein conformations; and conjugated systems with unusual aromaticity. To learn more about these projects, please contact Professor Felix Carroll at for an appointment.

Professor Hauser: Waterpipe Tobacco Research

Student Positions: 2 Spring, 4-5 Summer
Particles within waterpipe tobacco smoke (WTS) have the potential to cause lung damage due to their chemical composition and, similar to particulate matter in the atmosphere, due to their physical presence. In Prof. Hauser's laboratory, students focus on characterizing the physical and chemical characteristics of WTS in the following ways:

  1. Identify aspects of waterpipe configuration that impact physical characteristics of WTS particulate and can be regulated, such as the heating source, shisha, pipe height, hose length and hose material.
  2. Systematically characterize the physical particle profile, including size distribution, number density, surface area and mass, of WTS particulates generated using those configurations identified above and a range of smoking regimes.
  3. Characterize metals present in waterpipe tobacco smoke using AAS.
  4. Characterize Semi-Volatile Compounds in the Particulate Component of Waterpipe Tobacco Smoke using GC/MS and LC/MS.
  5. Characterize the oxygenated organic fraction of waterpipe tobacco smoke using FTIR.

Each project involves a significant amount of method development in sample collection, preparation and analysis. To learn more about these projects, please contact Professor Cindy Hauser at for an appointment.

Professor Snyder: Glycoscience Research

Student Positions: 5-6 Summer
Research in Prof. Snyder's group focuses on the preparation and characterization of biologically relevant carbohydrate-based constructs that can be used to investigate the roles of carbohydrates in a number of important fundamental interactions. The uniting features of the research projects in my laboratory include:

  1. To optimize existing synthetic routes and develop new synthetic strategies for the preparation of functionalized carbohydrate residues.
  2. To synthesize biologically relevant carbohydrate constructs from selectively functionalized carbohydrate residues using solution and solid support approaches.
  3. To investigate the functional consequences of the carbohydrate constructs synthesized using state of the art chemical, biochemical and spectroscopic techniques.
  4. To provide research opportunities in the glycoscience field for undergraduate students.

At present, Prof. Snyder's research laboratory is active in two main areas. The first focuses on the synthesis and characterization of precision glycomacromolecules for the studying tumor transformation and metastasis. The second area focuses on the synthesis carbohydrate-based constructs for targeting viral, bacterial and fungal infections. The goal is to provide high caliber, collaborative research opportunities for intellectually curious students interested in pursuing glycoscience research. To learn more about these projects, please contact Professor Nicole L. Snyder at for an appointment.

Professor Stevens: Reactions of Nitrogen Heterocycles

Positions Available: 1-2 Summer
Students in Prof. Stevens' laboratory work on creating new reactions of nitrogen heterocycles with potential utility to the pharmaceutical industry. The availability of new reactions can open up previously inaccessible areas of research for biologically active compounds. Students learn how to set up reactions and make, isolate, purify and characterize new compounds. Students also learn how to use the chemical literature as a tool for selecting optimal reaction conditions. To learn more about these projects, please contact Professor Erland Stevens at for an appointment.