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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.

Computational Chemistry of Biomolecules
Dr. Paul Smith

  • Study of structure-function relationships of E4orf1, a virus-derived protein with remarkable cell transforming capacity
  • Characterization of the heterodimeric protein toxin from P. volitans, a species of invasive lionfish
  • Development of a software tool for automated modeling of solvent species in macromolecular crystal structures – an independent project in machine learning.
  • Techniques for high-throughput assay of steroid hormone levels in hair and saliva samples – a collaborative project with the Fordham Dept. of Psychology.

Bionanotechnology / Biomaterials/ Tissue Engineering and Drug Delivery
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.

Theoretical / Computational Chemistry: Application of computational methods toward the discovery of new materials
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.

Cosmochemistry
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.

Inorganic Chemistry
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; large polynuclear metal oxo anions (polyoxometalates) and Schiff base complexes are being studied. Investigations with fluorinated ligands have revealed interesting structural and reactivity features arise in models of metalloprotein active sites or chemistry. This is evident in the structure of the tetranuclear manganese complex [Mn4 O2 (O2 CCF3 )8 (bpy)2 ] which exhibits a new structural motif – a hydrogen bond to a dangling monodentate acetate ligand
  • Develop metal complexes as tools to probe the dynamics of macromolecular interactions on fast time scales. In collaboration with colleagues at Einstein College of Medicine fast Fenton footprinting can be achieved between Fe(II)-EDTA/H2 O2 and DNA using quench flow methods.

Nanotechnology/ Materials Science/ 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.

Organic Semiconductors
Dr. Julia Schneider

  • Elucidation of structure-property-morphology relationships in organic semiconductors. By focusing on simple structural modifications that influence optoelectronic properties and solid-state assembly, one can probe these relationships and develop a comprehensive design strategy for organic semiconductors. These strategies can then be implemented in the synthesis of novel materials for current and up-and-coming applications in organic electronic devices such as light- emitting diodes, solar cells, or transistors.
  • Synthesis of novel building blocks with electroluminescent and sensing abilities to impart additional functionality to new organic semiconductors. These include azepine-containing polycyclic N-heteroaromatic compounds, small molecules and polymers based on pyrene diimide (a here to-unreported monomer), and crystalline materials whose morphology can be tuned via their side-chains. Predicting the effect of molecular structure on solid-state assembly (a critical aspect of device performance) is an ongoing challenge, so such changes on material morphology are being probed. This work will contribute to the field through novel semiconductors by providing a comprehensive synthetic road map that takes into account bulk morphology. Overall research involves computational modeling, synthesis, polymer chemistry, spectroscopy, and electrochemistry.

Organic Synthesis [I]
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.

Organic Synthesis [II]
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.

Pedagogical Research in Organic Chemistry
Dr. Donald Clarke

  • Current research aims to improve the teaching of chemistry at the undergraduate level with a primary focus on the use of NMR spectroscopy to solve chemical structures as well as to illustrate chemical theory of bonding.
  • Teaching NMR spectroscopic analysis early and often throughout the curriculum and to accomplish this, 13 C interpretation before 1 H is preferable since it avoids the complication of dealing with complex spectra [non first order] for hydrocarbons.
  • Recent work has dealt with correcting errors in the assignments of 1 H and 13 C chemical shifts. This occurs often when chemical shift differences are small. In addition, we use proton-coupled 13 C spectra to show that hybridization of C-H bonds is frequently mistaught. We use Gaussian for quantum chemical calculation of chemical shifts and coupling constants, and then compare these with predictions made by commercial programs based on additivity rules. The latter fail when there is appreciable steric hindrance or in detecting stereochemistry. Calculations have been done in collaboration with Dr. James Foresmann of York College of Pennsylvania who is a member of the Gaussian team.

Crystallography of Flavones
Dr. Massud Shoja

  • Examining the relation of conformation of flavones to their crystal packing as well as studying factors that affect packing.
  • Determine X-ray crystal structures of new flavones