Chemistry Research Opportunities

The Department of Chemistry considers research as a crucial aspect of developing student’s critical thinking and technical skills. We offer a wide-range of research opportunities for undergraduate students in STEM fields. Students can conduct research during the school year as well as during the summer. Students can participate in a variety of research projects, gain hands-on experience in an active research laboratory under the direction of a research mentor. Often times, successful students become co-authors on publications and present at conferences.

Analytical Chemistry/ Chemical Evolution/ Environmental
Dr. Christopher Bender

  • Determining chemical evolution selection processes that direct formation of complexes that behave like proto-enzymes; Examining thermally-driven amino acid polymerization reactions in aqueous solution under conditions that mimic geochemical systems including those hypothesized as corresponding to the Archaean Earth.
  • Examination of interactions between metal ions and ligands using magnetic resonance and other spectroscopic methods that are sensitive to weak binding forces. Subtractive spectroscopic techniques are being developed in order to identify and characterize the metal ion species that co-exist at equilibrium in electrolyte solutions of varying pH and ionic strength.

Biochemistry / Bionanotechnology / Biomaterials / Protein Chemistry / Medicinal Chemistry
Dr. Ipsita Banerjee

  • Design, synthesis and preparation of new biological scaffolds with enhanced cellular-recognition ability for tissue engineering applications. Examination of interactions of mammalian cells with designed scaffolds and their ability to mimic the extracellular matrix of tissues. Develop 3D printed scaffolds for engineering bone, cartilage, skin and neural tissue.
  • Preparation of nanoscale biocompatible materials for theranostics and drug delivery, particularly for targeting breast and ovarian tumor cells. The mechanisms affecting cell-proliferation, cell- motility, mitochondrial membrane structure and function, and cytoskeletal changes are being studied.
  • Green-synthesis of morphology controlled nanoparticles
  • Prepare nanoscale antimicrobial materials using hybrid bio-organic soft materials for prevention of biofilm formation.
  • Examine protein interactions with nanoparticles using spectroscopic and microscopic techniques to study mechanisms of protein-misfolding diseases.

Dr. Elizabeth Thrall

  • Many biochemical processes within the cell are carried out by multi-protein complexes. I am interested in understanding how these dynamic multi-protein machines are organized, how they are remodeled to perform different functions, and how their activity is regulated to ensure that they do not act in contexts that could be harmful to the cell. Although bulk biochemistry and genetics can identify proteins involved in these processes and provide insight into mechanism, these approaches lack the molecular resolution to visualize intermediate states or distinguish between heterogeneous pathways. Using single-molecule fluorescence microscopy, I will elucidate the molecular mechanisms of the multi-protein complexes that carry out DNA replication and repair in model bacterial species.

Dr. Nicholas Sawyer

  • Develop strategies to inhibit disease-associated protein-protein interactions (PPIs) using rationally designed molecules, especially structured peptides and protein mimetics
  • Develop and analyze synthetic approaches to generate peptides and protein mimetics with novel structural properties
  • Develop synthetic approaches for non-natural amino acid building blocks
  • Recent projects include: 1) divergent synthesis of peptides to adopt multiple, defined structures, 2) stabilization of peptide polyproline II helices and targeting relevant PPIs, 3) solid-phase and hybrid synthesis of peptides containing non-natural amino acids

Dr. Meng Zheng

One of the major global health challenges of our time stems from the constant evolution of microbial resistance mechanisms to antibiotics. In our lab, we are aiming to develop novel approaches to study, counter-act and overcome known bacterial resistance against antibiotics. Current research projects include:

  • Develop inhibitors/probes to modulate ADP-ribosylation of rifamycin.
  • Understand the molecular mechanism of rifamycin resistance related with ADP-ribosyltransferase.
  • Develop novel antibiotics targeting unidentified target.

Computational Chemistry / Theoretical Chemistry
Dr. Joshua Schrier

  • Utilization of physics-based atomistic simulation for the design of organic semiconductor materials, separation membranes, optoelectronic nanostructures, and batteries.
  • Current projects are focused on organic-inorganic hybrid materials, such as amine-templated metal oxides and organohalide perovskites. In particular, the role of non-covalent interactions in structure formation is being investigated.
  • Utilization of data-driven approaches to materials synthesis, particularly to study ways that one can collect experimental synthesis data, and then use that data to find useful explanations and predictions of inorganic reactivity. This work has involved developing software infrastructure for digital representations of inorganic reactions, tests of machine learning for synthesis prediction, and extraction of chemical insight from the data.

Dr. Jon Friedrich

  • Examination of the processes generating chemical diversity in our early solar system. To accomplish this, chondrites, meteorites that have changed very little since the formation of the solar system are being studied. Chondrites in particular give crucial snapshots of the earliest stages of solar system formation and subsequent evolution from that primitive state.
  • One line of inquiry involves investigating the chemical and physical changes that take place during impacts on asteroids. Impacts are one of the major forces that have shaped all planetary bodies in our solar system.
  • Another focus involves examining the physical properties of components of chondrites. High quality data regarding these components is being acquired to assist collaborators with astrophysical modeling of the processes that shaped the chemical properties of our solar system. Measurement are being carried out by using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS) for the quantification of trace elements and x-ray synchrotron microtomography for the examination of the physical properties of chondrites.

Inorganic Chemistry
Dr. Peter Corfield

  • Structural characterization of inorganic coordination compounds by single crystal X-ray crystallography. In addition, our group prepares new self-assembled inorganic polymers, to investigate their properties and crystal structures, and to relate their structures with their physical properties.
  • Recent work in our laboratory has focused on attempts to characterize neutral mixed-valence copper cyanide complexes, where the divalent copper (Cu(II)) atoms are coordinated with bi- or tridentate bases to stabilize against reduction by cyanide. We have succeeded in preparing and characterizing 25-30 new compounds in the past few years. The compounds do indeed include several of the desired mixed-valence copper cyanide polymers, but we have also prepared incidentally several mixed valence monomers, and network polymers containing Cu(I) only. For example, the base N,N-diethylethylenediamine, et 2 en, can form either of two compounds: the mixed-valence 1D polymer, Cu(et2 en)2 .Cu2 (CN)3 , with the triple-chain structure shown, with Cu(I) and Cu(II) atoms linked by CN groups alternating along the outer chains and a central chain consisting of CN linked Cu(I) atoms; or the mixed valence compound Cuet2 en.Cu(CN)3 , in which Cu(II) is coordinated by only one et2 en base molecule and by three CN groups, in a 2D polymeric structure.

Dr. Robert Beer

  • Preparation, properties and reactions of metal complexes focusing largely on two areas: coordination chemistry and bioinorganic chemistry. Several types of coordination compounds, including large polynuclear metal oxo anions (polyoxometalates) and Schiff base complexes are being studied. For example, investigations with fluorinated ligands have revealed interesting structural and reactivity features in models of metalloprotein active sites or chemistry. This is exemplified by a structural discovery in the tetranuclear manganese complex [Mn4O2(O2CCF3)8(bpy)2], which introduces a novel motif—a hydrogen bond to a dangling monodentate acetate ligand.
  • Development of metal complexes as tools to probe the dynamics of macromolecular interactions on fast time scales. In a collaboration with colleagues at Einstein College of Medicine, a fast Fenton "footprinting" method was devised using Fe(II)-EDTA/H2O2 to cleave DNA using quench flow methods.

Materials Chemistry / Nanotechnology / Renewable Energy
Dr. Christopher Koenigsmann

  • Synthesis of first-row transition metal-based, core-shell nanowires as electrocatalysts to increase the cost-effectiveness and performance of fuel cells by replacing expensive precious metals with inexpensive and abundant first-row transition metals.
  • Develop a modular assembly process to prepare core-shell nanowires as electrocatalysts for applications as glucose-biosensors. The nanowires consist of inexpensive core materials (copper, cobalt, iron, and nickel) coated with a thin catalytically active precious metal shells and are synthesized by utilizing ambient, surfactantless, template-based methods. Initial testing of these catalysts has shown that their catalytic activity toward the oxygen reduction reaction, an important fuel cell reaction, was five-fold higher than the state-of-the-art commercial catalyst.
  • Designing hierarchical nanostructured assemblies for dye-sensitized photoelectrochemical cells (DPSCs) for enhanced performance in photoelectrochemical devices and artificial photosynthesis. A new approach is being taken for the design of the photoanode within DSPCs, wherein we merge the principle of band gap engineering in semiconductor nanoparticles with light scattering nanostructures to develop a hierarchical, composite material that is tailored for maximum performance. The primary advantage of this approach is that it relies on a modular assembly process, which will allow fine tuning of the individual components of the film to increase the photovoltage and photocurrent.

Dr. Julia Schneider

  • Synthesis of new conjugated organic semiconductors.
  • Synthesis of conjugated polymers and elucidation of structure-property-morphology relationships in organic semiconductors.
  • Students will learn complex organic synthetic techniques, including using a schlenk line to run reactions under inert conditions--free of oxygen and water.
  • Certain projects will focus on UV-vis and fluorescence spectroscopy or electrochemistry or the computational modeling of synthetic targets.

Organic Synthesis
Dr. James Ciaccio

  • Development of new or improved organic synthetic methods with emphasis on chemo- and regioselective reactions of epoxides and epoxide synthesis. For instance, dilithium tetrabromocuprate (Li 2 CuBr 4 ) reagent was developed for the selective conversion of epoxides to bromohydrins in organic solvents. The reagent has been found useful by others in their synthetic work and was eventually made commercially available. Current work involves examining the reaction of epoxides with dilithium tetrahalocuprates and copper (II) halides using environmentally benign solvents (water, PEG) and without solvent. Also modified the Corey-Chaykovsky (CC) cyclopropanation reaction, and subsequently found that treatment of various electron-deficient alkenes in DMSO with specific methylide mixtures cleanly afforded the corresponding substituted cyclopropanes in good yields and short reaction times.
  • Devising novel, project-oriented and discovery-based undergraduate organic laboratory experiments that combine synthesis and mechanistic investigation.
  • Collaborative project with vector ecologists at Fordham’s Louis Calder Center-Biological Field Station examining plant essential oils as potential tick repellents to prevent Lyme disease.

Dr. Shahrokh Saba

  • Develop one-step synthetic strategies for the preparation of nitrogen containing compounds using simple ammonium salts containing nucleophilic and non-nucleophilic counter ions as reagents. In connection with this theme one step protocols for the preparation of compounds such as cyclic amidinium tetrafluoroborates and hexafluorophosphates; ternary and quaternary iminium tetrafluoroborates, hexafluorophosphates, and perchlorates; secondary and tertiary acetamides; alkyl-substituted amine tetrafluoroborate and hexafluorophosphate salts have been synthesized.
  • Develop practical and pedagogically valuable undergraduate organic laboratory experiments to illustrate significant features related to molecular structure or chemical reactions.
  • Develop novel synthetic routes to certain nitrogen-containing heterocycles with possible biological activity.