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Chemistry's REU Program Introduces Undergrads to Research


Students from four-year colleges visit UC for a summer of research and a taste of life as a chemistry professional.

Date: 8/26/2009 12:00:00 AM
By: Kim Burdett
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Melanie Cannon

UC ingot   In his fifth year as program director of the chemistry department’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, Professor Bruce Ault doesn’t see the added responsibility as work, but as a labor of love.

Nellymar Membrano and Ron Millard.
Nellymar Membrano of Florida International University explains her research findings to UC faculty member Ron Millard.

“We do this clearly for the love of contributing to the future of science,” Ault says. “The overarching goal of the REU program is to urge students to stay in the field of chemistry, and introduce them to what a career in chemistry might be like.”

Fourteen undergraduates from 10 colleges across the country (and two from Germany) spent 10 weeks of their summer at University of Cincinnati’s campus, working directly with researchers on various chemistry problems, from the development of chemical sensors to green chemistry to theoretical biophysical chemistry.

The program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation to help undergraduate chemistry majors from four-year colleges develop research and professional skills. The students work full-time in the labs and spend two lunch breaks a week learning about professional development. Each student has a faculty advisor and graduate student mentors that guide them through the laboratory experiences.

Bruce Ault, Sandra Degan and Ron Millard.
Chemistry Professor Bruce Ault (left) is the program director of the REU. Sandra Degan, vice president of research, and Ron Millard, professor of pharmacology and cell biophysics, also attended the poster session.

“I really enjoyed myself,” Chester Williamson said at the culminating poster session and celebration that took place last week in Crosley Tower. The event allowed the participants to present their research to faculty, friends and students of the department.

Williamson, a student from Central State University, worked with Associate Professor James Mack and Professor Anna Gudmundsdottir on his project, “Synthesis of Corannulene-Based Molecules for Applications in Research.”

“I participated in the REU program to get a better understanding of what I want to do after I graduate. The seminars and the research gave me a better outlook on life in grad school,” he said.

Thomas Berkemeier and James Mack.
Thomas Berkemeier from Bielefeld University in Germany received the John J. Alexander prize while working all summer with Associate Professor James Mack.

The poster session ended with the John J. Alexander award, a $100 prize for the participant with the most outstanding REU poster. This year’s winner, Thomas Berkemeier of Bielefeld University in Germany, worked on a project called “Understanding Stereochemistry in the Solvent-Free Synthesis of Stilbene Derivatives by the Wittig Reaction.”

“My experience was so fun and it was great to work with Professor Mack,” Berkemeier said. “I picked this area of research because I really like organic chemistry and green chemistry. I wanted to understand how solvent-free research works because of the implications it has in industry.”

The participants used the poster session to prepare for a nationwide undergraduate forum at next year’s annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco. Through REU program funding, all participants can attend the ACS meeting to discuss their findings with accomplished members of the chemistry community.

Alongside funding by the National Science Foundation, REU is made possible with support from the Department of Chemistry, McMicken College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Vice President for Research.

To learn more about the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates, visit the NSF Web site.

To learn more about the chemistry department’s REU program, visit their Web site.

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