Undergraduate Summer Research

Summer Research 2018

All Harvey Mudd College undergraduates are invited to participate in the Summer Research program of 2018. The application process for summer 2018 is tentatively scheduled for January 16 – February 5 (2018). Applications are especially encouraged from chemistry and chemistry/biology joint majors and underclassmen strongly considering a major in either discipline. Our summer program runs for 10 weeks (tentatively May 21 – July 27) under the direction of Professor David Vosburg. Students will be conducting research, learning about the chemistry profession, and honing their presentation skills.  Please direct any questions to: chemistry@hmc.edu.

2017 Summer Research

Professor Daub – Theoretical Studies on the Transition State Topologies for Claisen Rearrangements

Theoretical Studies on the Transition State Topologies for Claisen Rearrangements (abstract)
This is a joint project with Professor Robert Cave in which transition state energies are evaluated using DFT calculations in an effort to see how well the results correlate with experimental data.

For additional information, email Prof. Daub at daub@g.hmc.edu.

Professor Johnson – Organometallic Synthesis and Asymmetric Catalysis

Organometallic Synthesis and Asymmetric Catalysis (abstract)

My group studies the asymmetric hydroamination of aminoallenes with chiral titanium and tantalum catalysts. Our new ligands are designed to be improvements from our previously published ones from my research group. The project would involve synthesis of a ligand in two or three steps from commercially available chiral building blocks, followed by complexation of that ligand with a transition metal. You will gain experience on NMR spectroscopy, GC-MS, air-sensitive reaction chemistry and the use of a glove box.

Professor Karukstis – Self-Assembly of Chromonic Dyes

The Karukstis laboratory explores the self-assembly of amphiphilic molecules with dual hydrophilic and hydrophobic character to create complex hierarchical structure via intermolecular interactions. (abstract)

Spectroscopic studies (absorbance and fluorescence) of increasing concentrations of chromonic dyes in aqueous solution. We will monitor the changes in absorption spectral shape and intensity as well as the shift in emission wavelength of an extrinsic fluorophore as dye concentrations are varied to reveal the nature of the aggregation process.

Light scattering studies to measure the root-mean-square radius of the dye aggregate. The concentration dependence of the size of the aggregate will reveal whether self-assembly is a continuous process or requires a threshold concentration to initiate aggregation. Correlation of the nature of the stacking process with dye structure may provide insights into the mechanism of the self-assembly process.

For additional information, please email Prof. Karukstis at karukstis@g.hmc.edu.

Professor Van Hecke – Liquid Crystal Projects and Liquid Projects

The general theme of the research in the Van Hecke lab is the study of liquids, the physical chemistry of liquids, particularly liquid crystals and binary mixtures of alcohols and hydrocarbons.

Liquid crystal projects

(1) Determination of binary phase diagrams of surfactants or chromonic materials in water or ionic liquids by fluorescence spectroscopy or differential scanning calorimetry. (2) Computer simulation of phases exhibited by binary mixtures of simple shaped objects as models for molecules. (3) Equal Gibbs energy analyses of binary phase diagrams.

Liquid projects

(1) Measuring excess Gibbs energy of liquid mixtures by laser light scattering. (2) Measuring pzieo-optic coefficients and isothermal compressibilities by laser refractometry.

Binary mixtures of carboxylic acids: potential thermal energy storage systems.

Mixtures of long chain [10 to 18 carbons] carboxylic acid have been considered as thermal energy storage media because of the low melting behavior based on the formation of eutectic and peritectics.  Preliminary evidence in our laboratory has confirmed to formation of low melting mixtures.  The new line of investigation will detail the energy associated with the phase changes of these low melting mixtures.  The primary tool for these studies will be differential scanning calorimetry.

For additional information, email Prof. Van Hecke at vanhecke@g.hmc.edu.

Professor Van Heuvelen – Development of Bio-Inspired, Environmentally Friendly Catalysts

Developing Bio-Inspired Catalysts

Metalloenzymes found in biological systems catalyze a remarkable range of reactions with impressive efficiency and selectivity, and these reactions occur under benign conditions using earth-abundant materials. In the lab and in industry, however, we often conduct the same reactions using rare and expensive elements and harsh reaction conditions. The Van Heuvelen lab draws inspiration from nature to develop new, environmentally friendly catalysts for important reactions.

We are currently studying the dechlorination of carcinogenic pollutants perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene. Metalloenzymes containing cobalt or nickel have been shown to remediate these pollutants. We synthesize small molecular mimics of metalloenzyme active sites and evaluate their reactivity. Insights into the fundamental chemistry that governs these reactions will be used to improve our catalyst design. We also study our compounds using computational methods.

Students interested in this work are encouraged to contact Prof. Van Heuvelen vanheuvelen@g.hmc.edu to talk about opportunities in the lab this summer.

Opportunities for Students:

  • Computational Chemistry: Calculate geometric and electronic structure of nickel and cobalt compounds and investigate possible reaction pathways
  • Synthesis & Reactivity: Use inorganic synthetic techniques to prepare nickel and cobalt compounds and evaluate their reactivity toward chlorinated hydrocarbons

Professor Van Ryswyk – Low-Cost Photovoltaics for Solar Energy Conversion

We do fundamental materials chemistry research on photovoltaics, aiming to improve the efficiency of cells constructed from low-cost materials that can be applied to large-area surfaces. Current projects include:
• dye-sensitized solar cells incorporating zinc oxide nanotube and nanosheet photoanodes;
• heterojunction cells produced by spraying colloidal suspensions of quantum dots; and
• quantum dot synthesis and surface chemistry.
There are a wide array of activities in our lab, including solid-state synthesis, cell construction, and materials characterization. We use tools as diverse as absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, current-voltage curve analysis, and various forms of impedance spectroscopy to characterize our devices.

For additional information, email Prof. Van Ryswyk at vanryswyk@hmc.edu

Professor Vosburg – Biomimetic Synthesis and Green Chemistry

Biomimetic Synthesis and Green Chemistry (abstract)

As organic chemists inspired by biology, researchers in the Vosburg laboratory pursue biomimetic and green strategies in syntheses of medicinal natural products or related complex structures. Our biomimetic approaches are inspired by consideration of how these molecules may be created in nature. When possible, we seek green methods that reduce the energy, waste, and time required to produce these elegant molecules. A collaboration with the Cave laboratory focuses on computational models of biomimetic reaction cascades.

For additional information, email Prof. Vosburg at vosburg@g.hmc.edu.