This summer, five Lycoming College students had the opportunity to work alongside faculty in research labs as part of the department of chemistry and biochemistry’s Endowed Summer Research Fellow program. From synthesis of iron coordination complexes and production of proteins to inventing new chemical reactions, students worked on a variety of research projects utilizing advanced technologies and techniques.
The Chemistry Research Endowed Fund, established by alumnus Steve Stout ’72, allows the department of chemistry and biochemistry to award fellowships to promising students, as determined by the chemistry faculty, to help them compete in the marketplace and in graduate programs.
“Our program is unique from those at other undergraduate institutions, as it is supported by an endowed fund that was established by a Lycoming chemistry alumnus,” said Holly Bendorf, Ph.D., department chair and associate professor of chemistry. “Unlike programs that rely entirely on funding from external grants, we are able to offer student research fellowships every summer, even when grant money is scarce. This is especially important during turbulent economic times.”
Each summer, faculty choose four to five students to participate in the program, and for six to eight weeks, students work full time in the research labs, helping faculty with projects they identified or started research on. As well as gaining valuable hands-on experience for their resumes, students receive summer housing and a stipend.
Danny Urbina Monterroso ’23 and Gricelda Arredondo ’23 both worked with Bendorf. Using research-grade instrumentation like the 400 MHz NMR spectrometer and the QToF mass spectrometer, Monterroso and Arrendondo invented new methods for the preparation of compounds that belong to a class of molecules known as nitrogen heterocycles, which are used in a number of pharmaceuticals. Monterroso and Arredondo will present their work at a research conference in the upcoming academic year.
Carter Branigan ’24 worked alongside Charles Mahler, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, on the synthesis of iron coordination complexes with sterically and electronically unique phosphine ligands. In response to how he felt about being chosen for the program, Branigan said, “This fellowship was a valuable experience that helped me discover my passion for working in the lab. I would encourage any students who are interested in pushing the boundaries of knowledge to apply!”
Juan Martinez ’25 and Marshall Stoner ’25 worked with Allison Saunders, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, on “Protein Expression Investigations.” Using Escherichia coli, Martinez and Stoner produced proteins for biochemical studies, specifically to test different growth conditions to express SAM proteins. They also used site-directed mutagenesis to create a variant of the green fluorescent protein of a jellyfish to emit blue fluorescent light instead. The experiments optimized by Martinez and Stoner will potentially be used in teaching future laboratory courses.
“The summer research program in the department of chemistry and biochemistry has been operational since 1987. We are proud of what has been accomplished in terms of the science, the development of relationships with the students, and how the experiences they’ve had has contributed to their future success,” said Chriss McDonald, Ph.D., Frank and Helen Lowry Professor of Chemistry. “Our chemistry and biochemistry graduates are known for their ability to ‘hit the ground running’ as they move forward in their careers beyond Lycoming.”
With one of the most highly esteemed undergraduate facilities in the East, Lycoming equips students with valuable hands-on lab experiences and a foundational understanding of chemistry and biochemistry that will prepare them for careers in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, secondary education, or graduate/professional schools. More information on studying chemistry and biochemistry at Lycoming is available at: https://www.lycoming.edu/chemistry/.