Two Chemistry Professors Earn Summer Research Scholarships – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Two Chemistry Professors Earn Summer Research Scholarships

HWS professors earn two of only eight scholarships given in chemistry across the nation by the Council on Undergraduate Research. Students will work with faculty mentors on “real” research over the summer.

Geneva, N.Y. — Two Hobart and William Smith faculty members have earned summer research grants from the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) to further the work they have been doing with students on important studies in chemistry. Of 21 grants offered by the CUR, eight were in chemistry and two of those eight were awarded to the Colleges. Each grant award gives the student a $3,000 to $3,500 stipend to work with the faculty mentor over the summer.

Chassidy Pierce '03, will be working with Christine de Denus, assistant professor of chemistry. de Denus explains that one of the major problems associated with the field of inorganic and organometallic polymers is the lack of synthetic methods available for the preparation of soluble, one-dimensional materials. Her preliminary work has indicated that a suitable method for the preparation of such materials has been developed and that now needs to be further exploited. There is a great interest in materials that contain metal centers capable of conducting electric currents or that react uniquely with light and it is anticipated that the types of complexes de Denus and Pierce will be preparing may be potential candidates for such processes.

Pierce's main role will be to both synthesize and characterize a variety of homo- and hetero-metallic complexes containing a number of metal moieties. The new materials synthesized will then be subjected to studies to determine their conducting abilities, photoluminescent properties, etc. At the end of the summer, she will present the results of her work at the National American Chemical Society meeting in Boston.

Pierce, from Groton, N.Y., is the daughter of Douglas and Lila Pierce. She is a chemistry major and has routinely been named to the William Smith Dean's list. Pierce is also a tutor for both America Reads and her peer students on campus. She is involved in the chemistry club, and serves on the day of service planning committee. She is also a student affiliate of the American Chemical Society.

Aaron Coffin '04 will be working in the area of synthetic organic chemistry. Along with assistant chemistry professor Erin Pelkey, Coffin will be working with indolocarbazoles, a group of compounds that possess promising biological anti-cancer activity. They have also been used in the treatment of diabetes. The two will be investigating the design of a new synthetic approach that will allow the preparation of molecules not available by current methods. Coffin will be heavily involved in all aspects of this research, from performing manipulations in the lab, to planning and presenting the results to the Chemical community at the National American Chemical Society meeting in Boston in August.

Coffin, from Skaneateles, is the son of Robert and Suzanne Coffin. He has declared a major in chemistry and plans to attend graduate school in chemistry after graduating from the Colleges.

Pelkey joined the Colleges faculty in the summer of 2001. He earned his B.A. from Carleton College, his Ph.D. from Dartmouth, and did postdoctoral work at Stanford University. His research interests lie in the field of organic chemistry and include developing new methods for synthesizing biologically active molecules.

de Denus joined the HWS faculty in the Fall of 1999. She earned the B.S. from the University of Winnipeg and her Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba. After completing her degree she went on to do postdoctoral studies with Harry R. Allcock in polymer chemistry at The Pennsylvania State University. Since her arrival at the Colleges she has had 12 undergraduate research students work with her. The results of their research efforts have been one publication in the Journal of Inorganic and Organometallic Polymers as well as 13 presentations at various conferences. de Denus is an active member of the American Chemical Society, the Canadian Society for Chemistry, the Council on Undergraduate Research, and Sigma Xi. In addition to her teaching and research, she is also a reviewer for the American Chemical Society, the Journal of Inorganic and Organometallic Polymers and the International Journal of Science and Technology.

The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) and its affiliated colleges, universities, and individuals share a focus on providing undergraduate research opportunities for faculty and students at predominantly undergraduate institutions. The Undergraduate Research Summer Fellowship Program of the Council on Undergraduate Research provides support for a seminal experience in the life of an undergraduate natural or social science, mathematics, or engineering student. Fellowships provide 10 weeks of research with a faculty mentor on the student’s home campus. The student and mentor apply jointly. Research projects are conducted during the summer between the junior and senior years.
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