Participating Faculty

Potential mentors in our program are listed below (alphabetically), with links to their REU projects and group research pages. They reside primarily in the Department of Chemistry, but key faculty members from other colleges are also included in our program. This affords REU students the opportunity to experience firsthand several aspects of research in the chemical sciences.

Faculty Member Research Area/Interests
Todd Bandhauer Materials: Li ion batteries: heat transfer, measurement, and modelingResearch Description
Kristen Buchanan Materials: nanomagnetism; magnet dynamics Research Description
Eugene Chen Materials: polymer chemistry; catalytic chemistry; green/sustainable chemistryResearch Description
The Chen group’s research encompasses three major areas: polymer chemistry, catalytic chemistry, and green/sustainable chemistry. Our polymer chemistry projects focus on the precision (chemo/stereoselective and living) polymer synthesis of stereoregular and optically active chiral polymers, as well as the development of new polymerization reactions or methods for completely recyclable sustainable polymers. In the catalytic chemistry front, we develop new catalytic reactions or processes based on organic catalysts, main-group Lewis pairs, and chiral transition metal complexes, for activating small molecules and synthesizing macromolecules. In the green/sustainable chemistry area, we create new atom-economical and catalytic reactions or processes for nonfood biomass conversion and upgrading into renewable chemicals, liquid fuels, and polymeric materials, as well as design macromolecular recognition and self-assembly strategies to control organic/polymer photovoltaic active layer morphologies aiming for higher power conversion efficiencies of solar cells.
Debbie Crans Bioinorganic: coordination chemistry; metals; spectroscopy; diabetes, cancer, and tuberculosisResearch Description
Research in the Crans group focuses on synthesis and characterization of vanadium, chromium and other transition metal coordination compounds with spectroscopic and mechanistic studies of these complexes. Examples are complexes derived from 2,6-pyridinedicarboxylic acid (H2dipic), aliphatic aminoalcohol ligands, and natural metabolite chelators including amino acids and redox active systems such as catechols. Many of these complexes have potential for treatment of a particular disease such as diabetes, cancer or occupational asthma. Some undergraduate projects involve synthesis and characterization of V, Cr or other transition metal complexes. After complex preparation and isolation UV-visible and IR spectroscopies are used for characterization of all the complexes. 51V, 13C and 1H NMR spectroscopy will be used for characterization of the vanadium(V) complexes. NMR spectroscopy is employed for the chromium complexes with appropriate oxidation states. EPR spectroscopy is used for vanadium(IV) and chromium(III) complexes.In a second type of project, students examine how metal complexes interact with enzyme or lipid interfaces. Some of these complexes are potent inhibitors for phosphatases and some projects have involved enzymatic studies with these compounds. Studies probing the interaction with lipid interfaces relate to model systems as to how metal complexes enter cells. These studies include working with microemulsions of synthetic surfactants and Langmuir monolayers. One recent project working with microemulsions has involved developing a formulation that allows intracavitary delivery of gelatous carboplatin to animals that had carcinomas surgically removed. Characterization of these materials includes investigating phase diagrams, optical properties, drug release and rheological characterizations.
Delphine Farmer Environmental/Analytical: atmospheric chemistry; pesticides in air and water; mass spectrometryResearch Description
The Farmer group is focused on interactions between atmospheric chemistry and ecological and industrial processes and their implications on regional air quality, worker safety, forest ecology and climate change. We develop advanced analytical instrumentation and techniques – including high resolution mass spectrometry – to study the role of biogenic volatile organic compounds in atmospheric processes as well as investigate the fate of pesticides in water samples.
Ellen Fisher Materials: plasma polymerization; nanomaterials; thin films; solar cells; biomaterialsResearch Description
The Fisher group explores the chemistry of low temperature plasmas used to deposit thin film materials or nanostructured materials. Plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition, surface modification, and polymerization have been extensively studied for use in many fields, including the biomedical and semiconductor industries as well as in environmental applications such as separations devices and for production or modification of materials used in renewable energy devices such as fuel cells, lithium batteries, and solar energy conversion. REU projects in the Fisher group have concentrated on plasma polymerization of organic thin films, plasma modification of porous polymeric materials, or production of metal oxide films for energy-related applications. Two goals of these projects are to explore the gas-phase chemistry of the plasma as a function of process parameters and to produce films with particular properties (i.e., good biocompatability, energy conversion, or high wettability). Students characterize film properties using analytical tools including FTIR spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, spectroscopic ellipsometry, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and gas-phase diagnostics. Variations in film composition are explored by varying plasma parameters. Recent REU projects were centered on creating patterned surfaces using two sequential plasma treatments resulting in a grid of alternating hydrophobic and hydrophilic areas; modifying hydrophobic polymeric membranes to create hydrophilic surfaces; and using plasma deposition to create composite nanomaterials.
Chuck Henry Analytical: bioanalytical chemistryenvironmental analysis; biosensor development; paper-based analytical devices; microfluidicsResearch Description
 Troy Holland Materials: advanced nanostructured materials; sintering; mechanical testingResearch Description
Susan James Materials: polymer synthesis for orthopedic, antibiotic and anti-cancer applicationsResearch Description
The Biomaterials Research and Engineering Laboratory (BREL) research focuses on polymeric materials used in biomedical engineering. These include orthopedic and cardiovascular applications as well as regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. Dr. James and her colleagues invented the BioPoly® materials, now in clinical use in partial resurfacing knee implants ( Much of BREL’s current work focuses on development of hyaluronan-enhanced plastics for blood-contacting applications such as flexible leaflets in heart valves, small diameter vascular grafts and catheters.
Alan Kennan Bioorganic: peptides; self-assembly; bio-organic; protein designResearch Description
The central motivation of the Kennan group is to understand and control molecular assembly mediated by non-covalent forces, in particular protein-protein association governed by alpha helical coiled coils. Comprised of two or more intertwined helical strands, coiled coils are ubiquitous mediators of protein-protein adhesion. In biology, they serve structural, mechanical, and transcriptional roles (among others). In biotechnology they have been used for biosensor development, biopolymer derived reaction catalysts, and selection systems for high-affinity ligand generation. In materials chemistry they have been employed as stimulus-responsive hydrogel elements and self-assembling fibrous nanostructures. We are interested in the design of new coiled coil structures, particularly by incorporation of unnatural amino acid side chain structures, and in the perturbation of natural systems. REU students will gain experience in molecular visualization of protein structures, rational design of self-assembling peptide systems, solid phase peptide synthesis, peptide/protein purification by HPLC, and analysis of oligomeric complexes by several biophysical methods (circular dichroism, isothermal titration calorimetry, analytical ultracentrifugation, etc.).
Arun Kota Materials: superhydrophobic & oleophobic materials; membrane separation; microfluidics Research Description
We leverage our strength in surface science to conduct both fundamental and applied research in the areas of bio-inspired and bio-compatible surfaces, super-repellent surfaces, chemically patterned surfaces, and stimuli-responsive surfaces. Our research is highly interdisciplinary and it addresses some of the key issues in the areas of membrane separations, boiling and condensation heat transfer, icephobicity, droplet bouncing dynamics, open channel microfluidics and microrobotics involving low surface tension liquids.
Amber Krummel Physical/Materials: 2-D infrared spectroscopy; optics; imaging of complex materials and mediaResearch Description
Research in our lab will be focused on elucidating the molecular level details that drive nano- to microscopic properties in condensed phase systems. Initially, our group will exploit the structural and temporal resolution of two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy to address questions related to pore-formation in lipid membranes, charge transport in polyelectrolyte membranes, and the nano-aggregation process of asphaltenes. In order to gain further insight to these systems, we will complement our experimental results with computer simulation and theory. Students will become experts in nonlinear spectroscopy and will develop general skills in optics, computer programming, and synthesis. Prospective graduate and undergraduate students interested in learning more details about the future of our lab should contact Dr. Amber Krummel.
Nancy Levinger Physical: spectroscopy; dynamics; nanostructuresResearch Description
Research in the Levinger group focuses on dynamics of molecules and chemistry in the condensed phase, especially molecular assemblies, molecules at liquid interfaces and in confined environments, such as reverse micelles. We use a range of spectroscopic techniques to explore these inhomogeneous environments including steady-state and time-resolved ultrafast laser spectroscopy. Working on their own project under the guidance of other group members, undergraduate students participating in this research can work on projects that range from preparation and characterization of new reverse micellar systems to making measurements using laser spectroscopy. In one potential project, an REU student could use time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy to learn about the similarities and differences of water at interfaces and confined to nanoscopic proportions in reverse micelles. REU students may also work on collaborative projects with the Crans or Bartels groups.
Martin McCullagh Physical: computation and theory, DNA repair, self-assembled biomaterials Research Description
The McCullagh group is interested in understanding energy transduction and self-assembly in biomolecular systems to aid in the design of new biomimetic materials. Biology has evolved to utilize energy to perform functions such as DNA/RNA translocation, unwinding and bending. We are using cutting computer simulations to model these processes in DNA repair enzymes and RNA helicases. The results from these simulations provide unprecedented atomic resolution of the thermodynamic processes. Biology has also evolved to utilize the assembly of molecules into order structure in, for example, cellular membranes and actin filaments. We are developing new statistical mechanical theories to model the multiscale nature of this behavior. We are specifically interested in the self-assembly of peptides due to the wide variety of macrostructures that can be formed.
Andy McNally Organic: organic synthesis, catalysis, sustainabilityResearch Description
Brian McNaughton Chemical Biology: inhibition of protein – protein interactions; RNA-small molecule interactions; RNA biochemistry; nucleic acid catalysisResearch Description
The McNaughton lab works at the interfaces between organic synthesis and molecular and cell biology. REU students will make research contributions in two areas. (1) Inhibition of protein – protein interactions: Students will participate in the identification, synthesis and analysis of molecules well-suited to interface extended protein surfaces and disrupt targeted protein – protein interactions known to play a critical role in cancer.  (2) Cell-selective drug delivery: Researchers will participate in identification of materials that enable selective delivery of a therapeutic to a diseased cell, in the presence of healthy cells.  (3) Students will participate in the identification and evaluation of nucleic acids that catalyze a variety of modern synthetic organic transformations, and study the mechanism by which these nucleic acid-catalyzed reactions proceed.
Carmen Menoni Materials: oxide materials; sputtering and optical characterizationResearch Description
The Menoni group works in the areas of oxide materials sputtering and optical characterization. These materials form the backbone of optical interference coatings used in high power lasers. The group is engaged in understanding how to tailor sputtering process to realize films that have extremely low absorption and scattering losses. It is therefore very important to understand how impurities affect the optical properties of the films. We seek systematic ways to select the deposition conditions to obtain low-loss materials, and to understand how impurities that are created during the deposition process affect optical properties of HfO2 and Sc2O3. Students will participate in the growth of these thin films and characterize them using a suite of optical and spectroscopic tools. Students will also be engaged in other lateral projects helping the mentors with their larger scale projects.
James Neilson Materials: solid state chemistry; biomineralization; hard magnetic materials; semiconductors; superconductorsResearch Description
The Neilson Laboratory is interested in fundamental solid-state and materials chemistry, elucidating synthesis-structure-property relationships in functional materials that will lead to “materials by design”. The research primarily focuses on understanding electronic properties, magnetism, superconductivity, and emergent physical properties in inorganic materials. We synthesize materials using high-temperature solid-state and low-temperature solution-based chemistries, followed by advanced characterization of atomistic structure and physical properties. Our additional use of theory and simulation provides insight into their relations. REU students will take on independent projects to prepare new functional materials and characterize their atomic structure and properties. The students will learn synthetic techniques from a wide array of methods, x-ray diffraction, physical properties measurements, and computer programming to analyze the data.
Amy Prieto Materials: batteries; photovoltaics; nanostructured materialsResearch Description
The Prieto group is interested in developing new ways of synthesizing nanoscale solid state materials with useful and interesting properties in three main areas: (1) developing a three-dimensional nanostructured architecture for lithium-ion batteries with high power density, (2) synthesizing nanoparticles of earth abundant, non toxic elements for inexpensive and efficient photovoltaics, and (3) synthesizing nanoparticles of Mg exhibiting improved kinetics for hydrogen storage applications. Each of these projects requires the synthesis of nanostructured materials, the characterization of these materials (typically with diffraction and microscopy techniques) as well as the incorporation of these materials into functional devices. REU students will learn how to make and characterize new materials, as well as build functional electronic devices.
Tony Rappé Inorganic: electronic structure calculations; solar photoconversion; protein-ligand interactionsResearch Description
Research in the Rappé group focuses on understanding chemical structure, reactivity, photoconversion, and magnetism through quantum and molecular mechanics. REU students will be involved with computation of activation or excitation energies for practical chemical transformations. The goal is to gain a molecular-level understanding of the interactions between weakly coupled electrons essential for control of chemical reactivity and photoconversion. The students will learn the basics of scientific computer programming, quantum mechanics and bonding, and modeling of reactivity and photoexcitation.
Melissa Reynolds Materials/Analytical: polymers; biomaterials; kinetics; gas storage & deliveryResearch Description
Justin Sambur Materials/Analytical/Physical: super-resolution microscopy, renewable energy, single-particle imagingResearch Description
The Sambur group focuses on developing imaging methods to study single nanoparticles. The group is excited to host an REU student to image gold nanoparticles with super-optical resolution imaging methods.
Matt Shores Inorganic: coordination chemistry; spin-crossover; single-molecule magnets; solar photoconversionResearch Description
Research in the Shores group is directed toward the design, synthesis and characterization of inorganic coordination compounds with tailored magnetic and electronic properties. We seek to understand and control electronic spin both to answer fundamental questions in magnetism as well as to provide new materials for chemical sensing, data storage and solar photoconversion. We are currently focused on the following projects: (1) using host-guest interactions to drive spin state switching in a controlled manner, which has applications in chemosensing and imaging; (2) preparing paramagnetic organometallic complexes as potential single-molecule magnet materials; (3) exploring new dyes and semiconductor combinations that improve hole-transfer photochemistry, which will pave the way toward more efficient solar energy conversion schemes. Undergraduate researchers work on their own projects with the guidance of graduate students and postdocs. REU students will be involved with all aspects of materials design, synthesis, and characterization. They will become familiar with air-sensitive synthesis techniques, X-ray crystallography, UV-visible, IR, and NMR spectroscopies, and measurement of magnetic properties with SQUID magnetometry.
Steve Strauss Inorganic/Materials: fluorinated materials; organic photovoltaics; medical diagnostics and therapeuticsResearch Description
Students in the Strauss Research Group become experts in the use of fluorine chemistry to prepare and study strong acceptors and weak donors, that is, strong electron acceptors and weak electron-pair donors. Under the guidance of co-P.I.s Steven Strauss and Olga Boltalina, students design and synthesize poly- or perfluorinated compounds and then study their new materials, in our lab as well as in the labs of our many collaborators at U.S. National Laboratories and universities and research institutes around the world, for diverse applications including the generation and storage of photovoltaic and thermal solar energy (including materials for advanced lithium-ion batteries), fuel cells, catalysis, fast-ion conductors, nuclear radiation detection, and molecular electronic devices such as organic semiconductors, OLEDs, FETs, etc. Examples of strong acceptors we recently prepared and studied are C60F48, C60(cyclo-CF2(2-C6F4)), C70(CF3)10, various isomers of PAH(CF3)5 compounds (PAH = anthracene, azulene, and perylene) and triphenylene (TRPH) derivatives such as TRPH(cyclo-C4F8)n and TRPH(cyclo-C4F4)n (n = 1–3). Examples of weak donors we recently prepared and studied are the superweak anions B(OTeF5)4, Al(OCPh(CF3)2)4, B12F122−, and B12F11(NH3). In the past, REU students in my lab made new fluorine-containing compounds using a combination of high-pressure, high-vacuum, airless-ware, and glovebox techniques, and learned how to characterize them using spectroscopy (19F, 11B, and 1H 1D and 2D NMR, IR/Raman, UV-Vis, XPS, fluorescence), microscopy, cyclic voltammetry, TGA, DSC, and BET measurements, and X-ray diffraction.
Alan Van Orden Physical/Materials: single molecule spectroscopy; bioanalytical; optical biosensorsResearch Description
Azer Yalin Physical/Materials: laser diagnostics; plasmas; combustion; spectroscopyResearch Description
Our research at the Laser Plasma Diagnostics Laboratory focuses primarily on laser sensors. We develop sensitive laser measurement devices to study trace gases in the atmosphere, e.g HCl present at concentrations below 1 part per billion. We also use the sensors for propulsion applications, e.g. to study the lifetime and erosion of thrusters used on spacecraft. Another main interest is laser ignition which involves the use of laser generated plasmas to ignite engines.