Undergraduate Research At Rhodes Provides Pipeline For Student Success

collage of fchemistry faculty and students at Rhodes College

Undergraduate research is important for students in the Department of Chemistry at Rhodes College. The hands-on experience not only provides a learning environment other than the classroom, but also provides students opportunities to work directly with faculty and gain skills for future success.

Ten students and seven faculty members of the department recently traveled to the national meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Indianapolis, IN.

Dr. Kimberly Brien had two students present research—Tyler Martin ’23 on the synthesis of nitrogen-based ligands and Huyen (Scarlett) Nguyen ’24 on the identification and potential properties of compounds in essential oils.

Dr. Will Eckenhoff had three students to present—Emma Dove ’23 on the synthesis of molybdenum and tungsten solvatochromic compounds and Alex Hemphill ’23 and Robbie Musicante ’23 on separate nickel-based hydrogen evolving catalysts.

Dr. Larryn Peterson also had three students to present—Emma Gruss ’24 on the synthesis of catechol derivatives and Gabriella Krisanic ’23 on antibacterial compounds. Gisela Xhafkollari ’23 presented her work on catechol-O-methyl transferase inhibitors, which had been published in Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters.

Finally, Chinnu Alli ’24 and Sani Patel ’23 each presented their work conducted with Dr. Roberto de la Salud Bea on solid phase peptide synthesis of biologically active compounds.

The students received funding from the Rhodes Travel Funds to attend the ACS national meeting. “This not only was a really fun event, but it also allowed our students to connect with others and experience that vastness of the opportunities available,” said Eckenhoff.

head and shoulder image of Alison Chang
Alison Chang ’18

Around the time students were presenting at the ACS meeting, two former Rhodes chemistry majors, Alison Chang ’18 and Bec Roldan ’19, were named among the 2023 CAS Future Leaders. Only 35 individuals worldwide are named annually.

As undergraduate students, Chang conducted research on developing solvatochromic molybdenum compounds with Eckenhoff, and Roldan did research with Peterson synthesizing antibacterial compounds. Chang currently is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oregon working on the development of catalytic systems for alkene isomerization. Roldan is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan and is investigating the synthesis of natural products that have interesting biological functions.

head and shoulder image of Bec Roldan ’19
Bec Roldan ’19

“It is so fulfilling to see our students go off and impact the world. We are all so proud of them,” said Peterson.

Also passionate about science communication, Roldan recently was selected as an AAAS Mass Media Fellow to work at National Public Radio this summer.