11 October 2022 • AlumsSTEM Tapper Fund Advances Student-Faculty STEM Research


The Edward J. Tapper M.D. ’64 Science Research Fund fosters faculty mentorship and hands-on research opportunities for students.

Edward Tapper

Edward J. Tapper M.D. ’64

Over the past year, Professor of Chemistry Christine de Denus and her research group have made significant headway in identifying molecular wire candidates, which may one day replace silicon chips in small electronic devices. Meanwhile, students across STEM disciplines pursued collaborative research projects through the Colleges’ summer science programs.

These projects were underwritten through the Edward J. Tapper M.D. ’64 Science Research Fund. Created in 2018, the endowed fund equips scientists in the HWS community with the resources to mentor STEM students who will lead the next generation of scientific discovery. These resources will be funded in perpetuity through Tapper’s estate. Most recently, he  continued his support of the sciences through a planned gift of more than $1 million.

As Tapper said when he made the gift, “Science is constantly being renewed. It is much more than just memorizing a lot of information. It’s a discipline in understanding how new knowledge can be used to improve the world we live in. This is very important for all of us.”

Over the past year, de Denus’ research group has analyzed “information published by engineers about their needs for [small electronic] devices” and developed ways to create the requisite molecules in the lab.

“The reason small molecules are being investigated is because they can self-assemble on surfaces and allow for a larger amount of information storage in the same amount of ‘real estate’ provided by a square-centimeter silicon chip,” de Denus explains.

To “self-assemble,” these molecules must be linear, air stable and resistant to temperature changes, and must have the ability to transfer electrons.

“This year we had a bit of a breakthrough year in the lab; we were finally able to prepare a small library of about 25 different compounds and fully analyze them,” explains de Denus, who presented the results with her students at Western New York ACS Undergraduate Research Symposium at Buffalo State University this spring. “We were also able to get high-resolution mass spectrometry analyses from an external lab at Old Dominion University and the results were great. We are now in a position to publish and are currently working on a manuscript to send out for peer-review.”

This summer, de Denus, Marlayna DiFante ’24 and Tess Weber ’23 continued the project, developing a larger library of compounds for analysis and delving into the electrochemical properties of the materials created.

FURTHER TOGETHER: The Campaign for Our Third Century

The Tapper Fund also supported more than 75 Summer Research Scholars in a variety of ways including providing for housing, stipends and research supplies. Nearly two dozen students received direct or indirect support from the fund, which helped advance projects spanning plant evolution and genomics, aquatic ecosystems, urban ecology, habitat fragmentation, algal blooms and microplastics, among other topics. The funds also supported research collaborations with Cornell University faculty at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva.

For more information on support for student research through planned gifts, contact Director of Planned Giving and The Wheeler Society Angela Tallo at tallo@hws.edu or 315-781-3545.