Undergraduate Summer Research

Information for Summer Research 2015

Students will engage in an intensive 10-week research project under the mentorship of a Harvey Mudd College faculty member. Summer research is limited to undergraduate students attending Harvey Mudd College OR one of the other four Claremont Colleges. Current freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are welcome to apply, as are non-chemistry majors.

The application process is now closed and all questions should be directed to: chemistry@hmc.edu

Summer 2014 (Summer Projects)

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 studiesto 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.

2015 Research Projects
Professor Cave In our group we use quantum mechanics to understand the structure and reactivity of atoms and molecules (Abstract). In the coming year projects will range amongst:

  • Studies of the excited states of short-chain polyenes in order to compare with puzzling experimental results.
  • Studies of electron transfer in non-aqueous solvents.
  • Detailed theoretical studies to provide accurate thermochemical results for molecules that are difficult to treat experimentally.
  • Studies of photochemically initiated reactions.
Professor Daub

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.

Professor Haushalter Research in the Haushalter lab focuses on the design and testing of RNA structures built on a tRNA scaffold.  Currently, these chimeric RNA molecules are being tested for their ability to inhibit HIV-1 replication in a cell-culture, luciferase-reporter based assay.  Student researchers in the Haushalter lab have the opportunity to engage in the design, construction, and testing of new constructs and will gain experience in molecular biology and biochemistry.
Professor Hawkins

Atmospheric chemistry: Characterization of light absorption and total organic carbon content of Los Angeles aerosol (Abstract)

The Hawkins lab has a sampling system to collect atmospheric aerosol particles (like smog), measure the UV/vis absorption spectrum of discrete samples, and measure the total organic carbon content of the particles.  Student(s) will (1) test the system to ensure no contamination from in-house air and (2) measure particles from the LA air for a continuous period of time. A literature-based research project will support the analysis process to aid in understanding how brown carbon aerosol forms.

Atmospheric chemistry: Using force microscopy for analyzing atmospheric aerosol particles

Single-particle morphology and composition for atmospheric aerosol are critical for understanding how particles impact climate (and climate change). We have begun to use Atomic Force Microscopy to measure individual particles here at HMC. Student(s) will use Atomic Force Microscopy to probe particle material properties as a function of temperature and composition. In addition, students will collect ambient particles to analyze.

Atmospheric chemistry: Developing a “fog” chamber to learn how fog formation and evaporation impact particulate matter composition

Many studies have shown that the presence of overnight fog can alter the chemical composition and mass of particulate matter. Sulfate in aerosol particles is elevated when air containing sulfur dioxide passes through clouds. Aqueous processes like this also impact the organic components of particles, but are less well understood. The Hawkins lab would like to develop a way to simulate fog conditions so that ambient (atmospheric) particles can be exposed to fog and then sampled. These particles can be compared to non-fog particles to learn more about the role of fog. Students will help test a super-saturation chamber to make fog in the lab.

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.

Professor Van Hecke 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. (Abstract)

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

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

Professor Van Heuvelen

Development of Bio-Inspired, Environmentally Friendly Catalysts (Abstract)

We use a combination of synthesis, spectroscopy, reactivity studies, and computational chemistry to understand how important reactions occur in biological systems, and we use this understanding in the development of new catalysts.

Enzymes found in biological systems catalyze a remarkable range of reactions with impressive efficiency and selectivity, and these reactions occur under benign conditions. 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 takes inspiration from nature to develop new, environmentally friendly catalysts for important reactions.

The reactions we study include (1) the dechlorination of a carcinogenic pollutant found in ground water and (2) the activation of C-H bonds in methane, which is the main component of natural gas. The metalloenzymes we are studying include the cobalt-containing Vitamin B12 and the nickel-containing methyl-coenzyme M reductase (MCR).

This summer, we will study molecular models of Vitamin B12 and MCR in order to understand how geometric and electronic structure affect reactivity, and we will use this understanding to develop new catalysts. Students may focus on synthesis, spectroscopy, reactivity, and/or computational chemistry.

Professor Vosburg

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.