Chemistry / Biochemistry
Contact
Department Chair:
Michael W. Nee

Administrative Assistant:
Patricia West, A263

Department Email:


Phone: (440) 775-8300
Fax: (440) 775-6682

Location:
Science Center A263
119 Woodland St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Office Hours: 8:30-noon 1:00-5:00pm

Summer Research 2013

Summer Research 2013

Eric Bell  2015  

From: Hamilton, OH

Advisor:  Jason Belitsky

Research Project:  Chemistry of Melanins and Colorimetric Metal Ion Binding Coatings

Description: Melanins are ubiquitous but poorly understood biological pigments, which have fascinating chemical properties that can be exploited for environmental applications including the binding and sensing of heavy metals and organic pollutants.  Previously, the Belitsky lab has investigated synthetic and natural melanin coatings (derived from human hair) as lead-binding agents; discovered synthetic coatings related to melanin that change color upon binding Pb2+ and other metal ions; and developed an aggregation assay to probe the interactions of organic compounds with synthetic melanin.  This summer we will (1) investigate second-generation colorimetric coatings with potential as “naked eye” sensors for lead ions; (2) utilize the aggregation assay to discover new melanin-binding compounds; and (3) develop a second-generation coating derived from human hair that incorporates both melanin and keratin (the major protein component of hair) for targeting arsenic. 

Other Interests: Playing horn, video games, and music production

 


William Burke  2015  

From: Macon, GA

Advisor:  Matt Elrod

Project:  Gas Phase Oxidation Kinetics and Mechanisms for Isoprene-Derived Intermediates

Description: Isoprene, 2-methyl-1,3 butadiene, is the most abundant non-methane hydrocarbon present in the atmosphere. This volatile alkene, produced mainly by trees, undergoes gas phase reactions to form epoxide intermediates. The oxidation of isoprene to methacrolein is related to both tropospheric ozone and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation, and thus linked to air pollution and global climate change. We are interested in determining the NO and NO2 rate constants for the reactions with the peroxy radical associated with methacrolein (a methacrolein oxidation intermediate). The work is performed using our lab's unique turbulent flow chemical ionization mass spectrometer (TF-CIMS).  These measurements will allow a determination of whether gas phase processes dominate the fate of methacrolein-derived peroxy intermediates intermediates, or whether aerosol phase processes.

Other Interests: Likes reading about science including: the obesity and energy crises, recent intrigue in atmospheric Cytherean colonization, Organic Chemistry, and Physics. Volunteers at Kendal Retirement Home. Likes Irish and Japanese culture.

 


Justin Kang  2015  

From: Salem, OR

Advisor:  Jesse Rowsell

Research Project:  Property Exploration of Crystalline H-Acid

Description:  4-amino-5-hydroxynaphthalene-2,7-disulfonate, known commercially as "H-Acid", is an important dye intermediate produced in enormous quantities annually. It has been successfully used as a molecular building block in azo dye synthesis for more than a century, yet there are no entries for this moiety in crystal structure databases. The rigidity of the naphthalene backbone and presence of multiple coordinating groups suggest that H-Acid could further serve as a useful supra-molecular building block in the assembly of microporous crystalline solids. Intrigued by our recent discovery that the sodium salt of H-Acid forms an incommensurately modulated structure upon cooling below 160 K, we are exploring the crystal packing of this molecular anion with cations of varying sizes. I am currently synthesizing new arylammonium salts and characterizing them through a combination of X-ray diffraction, infrared spectroscopy, and thermogravimetric analysis. In addition, I am exploring methods for crystallizing the lithium salt, which remains elusive due to its enhanced solubility.

Other Interests: Piano, pipe organ, hiking (and the general great outdoors), Food

 


Edmund Korley  2016  

From: Newark, NJ

Ghana, West Africa

Advisor:  Jason Belitsky

Research Project:  Chemistry of Melanins and Colorimetric Metal Ion Binding Coatings

Description: Melanins are ubiquitous but poorly understood biological pigments, which have fascinating chemical properties that can be exploited for environmental applications including the binding and sensing of heavy metals and organic pollutants.  Previously, the Belitsky lab has investigated synthetic and natural melanin coatings (derived from human hair) as lead-binding agents; discovered synthetic coatings related to melanin that change color upon binding Pb2+ and other metal ions; and developed an aggregation assay to probe the interactions of organic compounds with synthetic melanin.  This summer we will (1) investigate second-generation colorimetric coatings with potential as “naked eye” sensors for lead ions; (2) utilize the aggregation assay to discover new melanin-binding compounds; and (3) develop a second-generation coating derived from human hair that incorporates both melanin and keratin (the major protein component of hair) for targeting arsenic. 

Other Interests: Community service, basketball, public health

 

 

Hayley Larson  2014  

From: Asheville, NC

Advisor:  Jesse Rowsell

Research Project:  Oxidation/Hydrolysis Reactions of Napthalenesulfonate Dye Intermediates in Natural Waters

Description: I am researching a napthalenesulfonate azo dye intermediate with the common name of ‘H-acid’ that is produced in massive quantities in China and India. The molecule ‘H-acid’ is considered non-toxic, but it forms many colored byproducts upon reaction with water and air, some of which could be carcinogenic amines similar to those produced by azo dyes themselves. These byproducts are reported to play central roles in wastewater contamination lawsuits by some communities in India, where the ‘H-acid’ molecule is produced. I am working with NMR, HPLC, and CZE to study the kinetics of the reactions that create these byproducts with the goal of determining a method for crystallization in order to confirm their structures, and eventually, toxicity.

Other Interests: Art conservation, architecture, choreography, aerial arts

 

 

Sophia Lewendowski  2016   From: Readington, NJ

Advisor:  Jason Belitsky

Research Project:  Chemistry of Melanins and Colorimetric Metal Ion Binding Coatings

Description: Melanins are ubiquitous but poorly understood biological pigments, which have fascinating chemical properties that can be exploited for environmental applications including the binding and sensing of heavy metals and organic pollutants.  Previously, the Belitsky lab has investigated synthetic and natural melanin coatings (derived from human hair) as lead-binding agents; discovered synthetic coatings related to melanin that change color upon binding Pb2+ and other metal ions; and developed an aggregation assay to probe the interactions of organic compounds with synthetic melanin.  This summer we will (1) investigate second-generation colorimetric coatings with potential as “naked eye” sensors for lead ions; (2) utilize the aggregation assay to discover new melanin-binding compounds; and (3) develop a second-generation coating derived from human hair that incorporates both melanin and keratin (the major protein component of hair) for targeting arsenic. 

Other Interests: Reading, running, and watching "Doctor Who"

 


Elaine Liu  2014  

From: Newark, DE

Advisor:  Catherine Oertel

Research Project:  Hydrothermal Synthesis of Novel Lead Oxide Carboxylates

Description: Lead oxide carboxylates are organic-inorganic hybrid materials which display unusual structural properties due to their elongated inorganic frameworks. These structures are commonly observed in corrosion products of lead-based objects, such as historic organ pipes. Our goal is to synthesize new lead oxide carboxylates through hydrothermal synthesis. Factors taken into consideration when preparing reactions include stoichiometry, temperature, solvent ratios, and pH.  Powder X-ray diffraction and thermogravimetric analysis are utilized in the characterization of products.  The Oertel lab has so far established several structural characteristics of these lead oxide carboxylates.  This summer, we hope to synthesize novel lead oxide carboxylates using a variety of organic ligands including salicylate, phthalate, benzenetricarboxylate, and nicotinate.  We hope to grow sufficiently large crystals to send to our collaborator, Dr. Matthias Zeller, at Youngstown State University, where single crystal diffraction can be used to determine the packing of the compounds’ unit cell.

Other Interests: Dance, soccer, scrapbooking, baking, cooking, reading

 

 

 

Liora Mael  2016  

From: Lexington, MA 

Advisor:  Matt Elrod

Research Project:  The Reactions of Biogenically-Derived Epoxides on Secondary Organic Aerosol

Description: 2-methyl-3-butene-2-ol (MBO), is the one of most abundant non-methane hydrocarbon present in the atmosphere. This volatile alkene, produced mainly by trees, undergoes gas phase reactions to form epoxide intermediates and is known to play a key role in the formation of secondary organic aerosol (SOA), which is linked to air pollution and climate change mechanisms. We will synthesize the gas phase epoxide precursor and investigate the nucleophilic reaction products and rate constants using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analytical methods.  These measurements will allow for a more detailed quantitative modeling of isoprene-derived SOA in the atmosphere.

Other interests: Swimming, making books and paper, reading and hiking.

 


Venkata Shiva Mandala  2015  

From: New Delhi, India

Advisor:  Catherine Oertel

Research Project:  Advanced Characterization of Lead Oxide Carboxylates

Description: Lead oxide carboxylates are often found as lead corrosion products in historically important objects made of lead, including a large number of European organ pipes. Studying the structures and formation of these compounds can give us valuable knowledge about the processes happening behind the corrosion of lead, which can lead to valuable advances in conservation techniques. The crystal structures of some lead oxide carboxylates have already been determined, and have been found to contain 1-D inorganic chains of lead oxide linked by carboxylate ligands. My work involves synthesizing some of the known lead oxide carboxylates and studying their structures using more advanced tools, primarily solid-state NMR (ssNMR). ssNMR will provide interesting information about the different electronic environments of the lead atoms in the compounds and about the effects of different organic ligands on the structures of these compounds. Another aspect of my project involves looking into transformation of these synthesized compounds. This includes the ideas of anion exchange and crystal transformation, which are interesting topics that have not been studied extensively. Exchanging the organic ligand for another one while preserving the cationic inorganic structure is the process of anion exchange, while crystal transformation can be thought of as including some modification to the cationic inorganic components as well. I am currently studying the differences in the transformation of two lead oxide carboxylates. This aspect also leads to some other interesting questions, including the effect of organic ligands on the electronic environment of the inorganic chains, as well as chirality of the inorganic chains caused by the ligands.

Other Interests: Playing soccer, reading, biking, cooking

 


Carl Mitchell  2015  

From: Princeton, NJ

Advisor:  Rebecca Whelan

Research Project:  Synthesis of Biologically Functionalized Iron Oxide Nanoparticles

Description: A novel and promising strategy for cancer treatment is focused hyperthermia, in which tumor cells are transiently exposed to high temperatures, promoting their destruction. One way to achieve localized heating involves attaching magnetic nanoparticles to molecules that are specific for a target protein. Interaction of the affinity molecules with their target (in our case MUC16, a protein that is over-expressed on the surface of ovarian cancer cells) adheres the nanoparticle to a cancer cell. Application of an oscillating magnetic field increases the temperature of the nanoparticle by as much as 40˚C, “melting” the cell membrane. Under mild conditions, this melting reversibly perforates the cell, enabling the introduction of drugs or material for gene therapy. With more vigorous heating, cells can be killed outright. In a pilot study, 100% of prostate cancer cells targeted in this way were dead after 7 min in a magnetic field. Non-cancer cells subjected to identical treatment remained viable. DNA aptamers are only beginning to be used in applications of this sort, and they have yet to be examined in the treatment of ovarian cancer. Our work will demonstrate the use of aptamer-based targeting of ovarian cancer cells by coated magnetic nanoparticles for focused heating and destruction. This project is supported by the National Cancer Institute.

Other Interests: I love music, cooking, biking and exploring

 


Tom Pires  2014  

From: Carlisle, PA

Advisor:  Rebecca Whelan

Research Project:  Aptamer-based Colorimetric Detection of CA125 Using Gold Nanoparticles

Description: CA125 remains an important biomarker for ovarian cancer in certain populations of women, such as those with a family history of the disease, those who are in remission, and those who are undergoing treatment.  For these groups, frequent screening for CA125 is highly important.  Currently, CA125 is assayed with an antibody-based test that is costly in terms of time, materials, and instrumentation.  Our work aims to develop an alternative assay using gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) and DNA aptamers for detecting CA125, wherein aptamer-CA125 binding allows AuNPs, which would otherwise be stabilized by the aptamers, to aggregate in the presence of high salt concentrations.  Owing to their extremely high molar absorptivity, the color change from unaggregated (red) to aggregated (blue) AuNPs is clearly visible to the naked eye.  In this way, detection of CA125 could potentially be achieved in an assay that is fast, inexpensive, and instrument-free. This project is supported by the National Cancer Institute.

Other Interests: Guitar, flute, and building guitar electronics and amplifiers.

 


Jamie Shallcross  2014  

From: Metuchen, NJ

Advisor:  Rebecca Whelan

Research Project:  Identifying and Validating DNA Aptamers for Ovarian Cancer Biomarker CA125

Description: Aptamers are single stranded oligonucleotides—DNA or RNA—that are selected out of a large, random pool on the basis of a particular function. Often aptamers function as high-affinity binders to biological molecules. The process of selecting aptamers relies on repeated cycles of selection and amplification until a small number of oligos with the desired binding property dominate the pool. Previously, significant progress was made on selecting an aptamer for the peptide epitope of the ovarian cancer biomarker protein CA125. This project is investigating the binding properties of selected CA125 aptamers using a competitive ELISA immunoassay. In addition, high-throughput sequencing data is being analyzed using bioinformatic methods to find other potential aptamers, and identify structural trends over each round of selection.

Other Interests: Theater, cooking, science fiction, and queer theory/activism

 


Greg Tapper  2014  

From: Potomac, MD

Advisor:  Jesse Rowsell

Research Project:  Oxidation/Hydrolysis Reactions of Naphthalenesulfonate Dye Intermediates in aqueous solution

Description: I am researching an industrial dye intermediate known as H-Acid that is produced on a massive industrial scale (rough estimates of H-Acid production in India are ~20,000 tons/yr and in China ~60,000 tons/yr). H-Acid is generally considered non-toxic, but it reacts to form many different byproducts of unknown toxicity upon reaction with water, light and air. This compound is reported to play central roles in wastewater contamination lawsuits within manufacturing communities in India, but chemical knowledge of H-Acid or its reaction pathways in waterways are scarce in the scientific literature. I am studying the kinetics and reaction pathways of H-Acid and its derivatives in order to eventually elucidate the structures of its derivatives and their respective toxicities. My primary instrument is the UV-Vis photodiode array spectrophotometer.

Other Interests: Reading, Rock climbing

 


Brian Uum  2014  

From: Seoul, Korea

Advisor:  Rebecca Whelan

Research Project:  Selection of DNA Aptamers for the Peptide Epitope of Ovarian Cancer Biomarker CA125

Description: DNA aptamers are oligonucleotides that recognize and bind targets of interest. An ongoing focus of the Whelan lab is the selection of aptamers for ovarian cancer biomarkers, with intended applications in novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. The aim of this project is to select an aptamer for CA125, an important biomarker, widely used in the diagnosis and monitoring of ovarian cancer. We are using combination of “One-Pot” based (One-Pot SELEX) and capillary electrophoresis-based systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (CE-SELEX) to identify DNA oligos with affinity for CA125.  Both One-Pot SELEX and CE-SELEX separate certain DNA sequences that bind to CA125 from many possible DNA sequenes.  After several rounds of SELEX, DNA aptamers with the highest affinity to CA125 are left. This approach has been shown by others to increase the speed and efficiency of the selection process. This work is supported by the National Cancer Institute.

Other Interests: Coffee, baking, DJing, and napping

 


Alex Watanabe  2014  

From: Honolulu, HI

Advisor:  Matt Elrod

Research Project:  Identification of Isoprene-derived Species in Secondary Organic Aerosol

Description: Isoprene, the most abundant non-methane hydrocarbon in biogenic emissions, is known to undergo significant oxidation into various species observed in secondary organic aerosol (SOA). Isoprene-derived epoxides (IEPOX) have been proposed as an intermediate in the formation of SOA by acid catalysis. From prior mass spectrum data, numerous thermodynamically stable isomerization products have been proposed including alkene triol/carbonyl diol and THF-type species. In order to identify these products we collect and analyze NMR data on the acid catalyzed isomerization of IEPOX-4 (2-methyl-2,3-epoxybutane-1,4-diol). To prevent formation of the already-confirmed polyol hydration product and to provide a reasonable rate of reaction, reactions are carried out with small amounts of methanesulfonic acid in deuterated methylene chloride.

Other Interests: Playing violin, arranging/transcribing music

 


Izumi Yamakawa  2014  

From: Tokyo, Japan

Advisor:  Catherine Oertel

Research Project:  Hydrothermal Synthesis of Novel Lead Oxide Carboxylates

Description: Lead oxide carboxylates are organic-inorganic hybrid materials which display unusual structural properties due to their elongated inorganic frameworks. These structures are commonly observed in corrosion products of lead-based objects, such as historic organ pipes. Our goal is to synthesize new lead oxide carboxylates through hydrothermal synthesis. Factors taken into consideration when preparing reactions include stoichiometry, temperature, solvent ratios, and pH.  Powder X-ray diffraction and thermogravimetric analysis are utilized in the characterization of products.  The Oertel lab has so far established several structural characteristics of these lead oxide carboxylates.  This summer, we hope to synthesize novel lead oxide carboxylates using a variety of organic ligands including salicylate, phthalate, benzenetricarboxylate, and nicotinate.  We hope to grow sufficiently large crystals to send to our collaborator, Dr. Matthias Zeller, at Youngstown State University, where single crystal diffraction can be used to determine the packing of the compounds’ unit cell

Other Interests: Snacking, marathoning TV shows, knitting, watching '90s music videos, browsing the classifieds