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Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate students actively participate in cutting-edge research at Geneseo.  

Student and Professor in an Organic Research Lab

Undergraduate research is a key component of the Chemistry and Biochemistry experience with multiple benefits, including:

  • Gaining relevant experience that is useful for graduate school, medical school, or getting a job
  • Forming a professional relationship with faculty mentor
  • Participating in original research and the generation of new knowledge
  • Gaining valuable skills in laboratory protocols
  • Receiving course credit

Access and Opportunities

Interested in joining a research group? Faculty welcome inquiries about joining their research group. Contact info is contained in the research descriptions below. Students are also encouraged to speak to their academic advisor about research opportunities.

  • There are no grade qualifications and all Chemistry and Biochem majors are eligible to participate in research, regardless of their year. A faculty member may require some course background before joining a project in certain circumstances.
  • During the school year, research positions are typically structured during the first week of the semester. Students can earn 1-3 course credits, which count towards graduation and major requirements (with Department approval).
  • A new program funded by the National Science Foundation in 2021 will provide meaningful research experiences to all Chemistry majors beginning in students' first year through course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs). A video describing CUREs is here.
  • Paid summer research opportunities also exist at Geneseo. In 2021, there were 5 positions that last 4-6 weeks and paid an average stipend of $5,000.
  • In 2019-2020, approximately 75% of chemistry majors participated in one more directed study research experiences.

Research Interests

Faculty research interests span both the traditional subdisciplines of chemistry and modern focus areas. Read details about faculty research groups and watch videos about examples research projects below. Faculty welcome email inquiries about their research interests or opportunities in their lab.

Biochemistry

Helms Group

  • Led by Dr. Eric Helms, work in the group focuses on Anaphalis margaritacea, also known as Pearly Everlasting. The flowers and leaves of Anaphalis margaritacea have been used by several Native American groups for respiratory illnesses, rheumatism, gastrointestinal ailments, and as a general analgesic. Active projects include chemical synthesis of a chlorinated polyacetylene found in the plant's roots, extraction of the compound from its natural source, exploring more efficient ways of purifying the compound from the extract, structure refinement of the compound, and eventual testing of the compound for biological activity. We are also in the process of identifying the genes encoding the halogenation enzymes, sequencing them, and expressing the proteins that they encode to allow mechanistic exploration. More information about the Helms Group research.

McKnight Group

  • Led by Dr. Ruel McKnight, the group studies the general area of DNA-drug interactions. It is now well established that a wide range of important therapeutic drugs exert their effects by binding to DNA. These compounds generally interfere with the actions of many vital enzymes and protein factors involved in DNA metabolism. However, a major limiting factor with the use of these drugs is the occurrence of deleterious side effects. The McKnight research group is currently involved in the study of drug-DNA interactions using calorimetric (ITC), spectroscopic (CD, fluorescence) and gel electrophoretic techniques. The long term goal is to develop a fundamental understanding of drug-DNA interactions and to use this knowledge as a guide to rationally design less toxic therapeutics. More information about the McKnight Group research.

Pogozelski Group

  • Led by Dr. Wendy Pogozelski, the Pogozelski group studies how normal cells and cells with defects in their mitochondrial DNA adapt to changes in fuel availability, altering their metabolism and mitochondrial function. Their emphasis is on providing quantitative measurements of these changes. The ultimate goal is to better understand the chemistry behind the "metabolic switch" that occurs when cells become cancerous and rely on fermentation.  In addition, the Pogozelski group studies what happens to mitochondrial DNA upon irradiation with X-rays, again, comparing normal cells and cell lines created from patients with mitochondrial disease. Dr. Pogozelski's scholarship also includes a writing/education arm that is designed to increase understanding of scientific issues, including Covid, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, nutritional strategies, and vaccines. More information about Pogozelski Group research.
Inorganic Chemistry

 

Organic Chemistry

Helms Group

  • Led by Dr. Eric Helms, work in the group focuses on Anaphalis margaritacea, also known as Pearly Everlasting. The flowers and leaves of Anaphalis margaritacea have been used by several Native American groups for respiratory illnesses, rheumatism, gastrointestinal ailments, and as a general analgesic. Active projects include chemical synthesis of a chlorinated polyacetylene found in the plant's roots, extraction of the compound from its natural source, exploring more efficient ways of purifying the compound from the extract, structure refinement of the compound, and eventual testing of the compound for biological activity. We are also in the process of identifying the genes encoding the halogenation enzymes, sequencing them, and expressing the proteins that they encode to allow mechanistic exploration. More information about the Helms Group research.
Physical Chemistry

Peterson Group

  • Led by Dr. Jeff Peterson, the group is focused on two main goals: (1) chemical synthesis of novel nanoparticles (NPs) and (2) the development of a full understanding of their optical and electronic properties through innovative spectroscopic methods. The group has a special interest in semiconductor quantum dots, inorganic particles 10,000x smaller than the width of a human hair that possess unique optical properties and that have applications in renewable energy and biological imaging. Active projects in the group include the application of single molecule spectroscopy methods to investigate the impact of NP shape on fluorescence blinking and the optimization SiO2/Au core/shell structures for the production of steam from solar radiation at room temperature.  More information about Peterson Group research.

Yokoyama Group

  • Led by Dr. Kazu Yokoyama, the group investigates self-assembly of protein structures on the surface of colloidal gold nanoparticles. The formation of these protein structures is associated with the neurodegenerative diseases (ie, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease) and may help provide insights for early detection and treatment. Other projects include the development of novel strategies for the functionalization of colloidal nanoparticles and the measurement of diffusion rate of nanoscale dopants in silica based sol-gel matrices.  More information about Yokoyama Group research.
Drugs and Human Health

Helms Group

  • Led by Dr. Eric Helms, work in the group focuses on Anaphalis margaritacea, also known as Pearly Everlasting. The flowers and leaves of Anaphalis margaritacea have been used by several Native American groups for respiratory illnesses, rheumatism, gastrointestinal ailments, and as a general analgesic. Active projects include chemical synthesis of a chlorinated polyacetylene found in the plant's roots, extraction of the compound from its natural source, exploring more efficient ways of purifying the compound from the extract, structure refinement of the compound, and eventual testing of the compound for biological activity. We are also in the process of identifying the genes encoding the halogenation enzymes, sequencing them, and expressing the proteins that they encode to allow mechanistic exploration. More information about the Helms Group research.

McKnight Group

  • Led by Dr. Ruel McKnight, the group studies the general area of DNA-drug interactions. It is now well established that a wide range of important therapeutic drugs exert their effects by binding to DNA. These compounds generally interfere with the actions of many vital enzymes and protein factors involved in DNA metabolism. However, a major limiting factor with the use of these drugs is the occurrence of deleterious side effects. The McKnight research group is currently involved in the study of drug-DNA interactions using calorimetric (ITC), spectroscopic (CD, fluorescence) and gel electrophoretic techniques. The long term goal is to develop a fundamental understanding of drug-DNA interactions and to use this knowledge as a guide to rationally design less toxic therapeutics. More information about McKnight Group research.

Pogozelski Group

  • Led by Dr. Wendy Pogozelski, the Pogozelski group studies how normal cells and cells with defects in their mitochondrial DNA adapt to changes in fuel availability, altering their metabolism and mitochondrial function. Their emphasis is on providing quantitative measurements of these changes. The ultimate goal is to better understand the chemistry behind the "metabolic switch" that occurs when cells become cancerous and rely on fermentation.  In addition, the Pogozelski group studies what happens to mitochondrial DNA upon irradiation with X-rays, again, comparing normal cells and cell lines created from patients with mitochondrial disease. Dr. Pogozelski's scholarship also includes a writing/education arm that is designed to increase understanding of scientific issues, including Covid, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, nutritional strategies, and vaccines. More information about Pogozelski Group research.

Yokoyama Group

  • Led by Dr. Kazu Yokoyama, the group investigates self-assembly of protein structures on the surface of colloidal gold nanoparticles. The formation of these protein structures is associated with the neurodegenerative diseases (ie, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease) and may help provide insights for early detection and treatment. Other projects include the development of novel strategies for the functionalization of colloidal nanoparticles and the measurement of diffusion rate of nanoscale dopants in silica based sol-gel matrices.  More information about Yokoyama Group research.
Green Chemistry and Renewable Energy

Helms Group

  • Led by Dr. Eric Helms, work in the group focuses on Anaphalis margaritacea, also known as Pearly Everlasting. The flowers and leaves of Anaphalis margaritacea have been used by several Native American groups for respiratory illnesses, rheumatism, gastrointestinal ailments, and as a general analgesic. Active projects include chemical synthesis of a chlorinated polyacetylene found in the plant's roots, extraction of the compound from its natural source, exploring more efficient ways of purifying the compound from the extract, structure refinement of the compound, and eventual testing of the compound for biological activity. We are also in the process of identifying the genes encoding the halogenation enzymes, sequencing them, and expressing the proteins that they encode to allow mechanistic exploration. More information about the Helms Group research.

Peterson Group

  • Led by Dr. Jeff Peterson, the group is focused on two main goals: (1) chemical synthesis of novel nanoparticles (NPs) and (2) the development of a full understanding of their optical and electronic properties through innovative spectroscopic methods. The group has a special interest in semiconductor quantum dots, inorganic particles 10,000x smaller than the width of a human hair that possess unique optical properties and that have applications in renewable energy and biological imaging. Active projects in the group include the application of single molecule spectroscopy methods to investigate the impact of NP shape on fluorescence blinking and the optimization SiO2/Au core/shell structures for the production of steam from solar radiation at room temperature.  More information about Peterson Group research.
Materials and Nanotechnology

Peterson Group

  • Led by Dr. Jeff Peterson, the group is focused on two main goals: (1) chemical synthesis of novel nanoparticles (NPs) and (2) the development of a full understanding of their optical and electronic properties through innovative spectroscopic methods. The group has a special interest in semiconductor quantum dots, inorganic particles 10,000x smaller than the width of a human hair that possess unique optical properties and that have applications in renewable energy and biological imaging. Active projects in the group include the application of single molecule spectroscopy methods to investigate the impact of NP shape on fluorescence blinking and the optimization SiO2/Au core/shell structures for the production of steam from solar radiation at room temperature.  More information about Peterson Group research.

Yokoyama Group

  • Led by Dr. Kazu Yokoyama, the group investigates self-assembly of protein structures on the surface of colloidal gold nanoparticles. The formation of these protein structures is associated with the neurodegenerative diseases (ie, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease) and may help provide insights for early detection and treatment. Other projects include the development of novel strategies for the functionalization of colloidal nanoparticles and the measurement of diffusion rate of nanoscale dopants in silica based sol-gel matrices.  More information about Yokoyama Group research.

Research Project Videos

How do Fibrils that Cause Neurodegenerative Disease Form?

More Research Project Videos

Instrumentation

Geneseo Integrated Science Center

 

The Chemistry Department is housed in the Integrated Science Center, a state-of-the-art 160,000 ft2 facility built in 2009. The Department maintains an extensive multi-million dollar suite of modern instrumentation that is used by students and faculty, and has access to complementary instrumentation in other science departments.

Chemistry Department Instrumentation

NMR Spectroscopy - Varian 400-MR 400 HMz NMR Spectrometer

Optical Spectroscopy - Thermospectronic IR-200 IR Spectrometer

Optical Spectroscopy - Nicolet Smart iTR FT-IR Spectrometer

Optical Spectroscopy - Cary 50 UV-vis Absorption Spectrometer

Optical Spectroscopy - Cary 5000 UV-vis-NIR Absorption Spectrometer

Optical Spectroscopy - Jasco J-915 CD Spectrometer

Optical Spectroscopy - PTI QuantaMaster50 Fluorescence Spectrometer

Optical Spectroscopy - Edinboro Instruments Mini-tau Fluorescence Lifetime Spectrometer

Optical Spectroscopy - Malvern ZetaSizer-Nano Dynamic Light Scatter Spectrometer

Optical Spectroscopy - Varian AA240/GTA 120 Atomic Absorption Spectrometer

Mass Spectrometry - Agilent 7890AVG/597MS GC-MS Spectrometer

Mass Spectrometry - Agilent 6120A/1260 LC-MS Spectrometer

Gas Chromatography - SRI 8610GC/TCD Gas Chromatograph

Gas Chromatography - SRI 310 Gas Chromatograph

Liquid Chromatography - Agilent 1100 HPLC Chromatograph

Electrochemistry - BAS CV-50W Voltammetric Analyzer

Thermal Analysis - MicroCal VP-ITC Isothermal Titration Calorimeter

DNA Analysis - Lic-COR 4300 DNA Sequencer

Crystallography - Bruker SMART X25 Single Crystal Diffractometer

Inert Atmosphere Environment - LC Technology LCBT-603 Double Dry Box

Relevant Instrumentation in Other Science Departments

Zeiss SMT EVO MA-10 Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)

Zeiss XXX Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM)

Panalytical X-Pert Pro Powder X-ray Diffractometer (XRD)

Thermo iCAP 7400 ICP-Optical Emission Spectrometer (ICP-OES)

Panalytical Axios X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (XRF)

Agilent 5500 Atomic Force Microscope/Scanning Probe Microscope (AFM/SPM)

Peer-Reviewed Publications

A sample of recent research articles is below (undergraduate students underlined, Geneseo Chemistry affiliation in bold). The full list of peer-Reviewed publications is also available.

Yokoyama, K.; Ichiki, A. Nano-size dependence in the adsorption by the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein over gold colloid. Colloids Surf. A: Physicochem. Eng. Asp. 2021, 615, 126275.

Powers, K. A.; Geiger, D. K. Hydrogen bonding in two benzene-1,2-diaminium pyridine-2-carboxylate salts and a cocrystal of benzene-1,2-diamine and benzoic acid. Acta Cryst. 2019, C75, 329-335.

Coffey, J. M.; Vadas, A.; Puleo, Y.; Lewis, K.; Pirone, G.; Rudolf, H.L.; Helms, E.D; Wood, T. D., Flynn-Charlebois, A. Synthesis and Characterization of a Deuterium-Labeled Stercobilin: A Potential Biomarker for Autism, J. Labelled Comp. Radiopharm. 2018, 61, 742-748.