Twelve students studying chemistry have been named recipients of the Erickson Discovery Grant. Chemistry majors Cristina Craescu, Danny Glickman, David Kennedy, Kennedy Miller, Laurena Olsson, Ann Marie Paterno, Matthew Schubach, and Yuyang Wang have received grants to support their research on campus. Additionally, Penn State students Samantha Grecco, Ruochuan Huang, Leonardo Batista Capaverde Silva, and Eli Mertick-Sykes will also complete research with chemistry faculty with the support of the grant program.
The Rodney A. Erickson Discovery Grant Program, named in honor of Penn State's seventeenth president, supports undergraduate student engagement in original research, scholarship, and creative work under the direct supervision of a faculty member.
Cristina Craescu is a senior in the chemistry major who is currently conducting research with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Beth Elacqua. Her work will focus on designing organic polymer-based catalysts to promote small-molecule transformations under confinement. Aided by the adaptability and by the modularity of the polymer framework, her goal is to interrogate selectivity, control, and rates of select organic reactions.
Danny Glickman is a junior Schreyer Honors Scholar majoring in chemistry; he will be conducting research with Associate Professor of Chemistry Ben Lear. Glickman’s research focuses on gold nanoparticle synthesis in polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a non-flammable, non-toxic medical polymer. In addition, Glickman hopes to gain insight on synthesis via transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and UV-Vis to determine if it is possible to control the shapes and sizes of the nanoparticles.
Samantha Grecco is a sophomore majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She plans to conduct research with the Bevilacqua group—led by Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Phil Bevilacqua—where she will examine the role of sRNA-mediated gene regulation in gram positive bacteria. The goal of this research is to understand how FsrA, an sRNA that mediates iron sparring responses in Bacillus subtills, mechanistically regulates its mRNA targets through structural analysis. As Grecco explains, “In all, this analysis will allow me to add a layer of information about how FsrA regulates its targets and potentially highlight a hierarchy of interactions.”
Ruochuan Huang is a junior majoring in physics. She plans to work with the Bevilacqua group to conduct research on RNA folding. Since the folding of RNA gives it diverse structures that allow it to possess catalytic activity and participate in different critical processes in the cell, studying the folding pathway of RNA can provide more insights into its biological functions. The main goal of this project is to investigate RNA folding under near-cellular conditions.
David Kennedy is a junior Schreyer Honors Scholar majoring in chemistry and chemical engineering. He plans to use his Erickson Discovery Grant to perform research with Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Amir Sheikhi. He will be working with synthesizing modified hairy cellulose nanoparticles that have been functionalized to bind to antibiotics and remove them from water sources.
Eli Mertick-Sykes is a sophomore in the biochemistry and molecular biology major; he plans to conduct research with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Xin Zhang. Mertick-Sykes’ research will focus on neurodegenerative diseases. Conditions such as Huntington's and Alzheimer's disease display patterns of excess cytotoxic protein aggregate formation in nerve cells. Normally, cells are able to clear these aggregates and other misfolded proteins through the Ubiquitin-Proteasome Pathway. However, research has also shown this pathway to be severely inhibited in patients with neurodegenerative disorders. Because of this, the Zhang lab has shifted its focus to activating a second protein degradation pathway known as autophagy. Mertick-Sykes will work to determine the effectiveness of several compounds' abilities to activate autophagy, using Huntington's Disease as a model in HEK293T (human embryonic kidney) cells.
Kennedy Miller is a junior chemistry major and biochemistry and molecular biology major minor. She is currently conducting research in the Cotruvo lab, where she is studying the recent discovery of the highly selective lanthanide binding protein, LanM. Her work is focused on the genomic context of LanM using bioinformatics to identify proteins and their sequence similarity networks. From there, she will characterize these homologs in the lab to further understand lanthanide recognition mechanisms and uptake in cells.
Laurena Olsson is a double major in chemistry and immunology and infectious disease major. She plans to conduct research with the Bevilacqua group, where her work will focus on the effects of natural RNA modifications on G-quadruplex formation.
Ann Marie Paterno is a junior chemistry major; she plans to conduct research with Associate Professor of Chemistry Richard Bell at Penn State Altoona. Her research will focus on nano-mesh materials produced through anodized impure aluminum.
Matthew Schubach is a junior chemistry major who is currently conducting research with the Elacqua group. His research will focus on synthesizing polymer catalysts that can affect light-mediated transformations of organic substrates under mild conditions. Furthermore, Schubach hopes to develop analogous systems that can facilitate cooperative catalysis. The broader goal for these polymer catalysts is to not only be more effective than current systems, but also be more economical and sustainable.
Leonardo Batista Capaverde Silva is a sophomore in the materials science and engineering major. Silva plans to work with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Lauren Zarzar on the study of the propulsion of particle adsorbed emulsion systems. Silva will analyze why the droplets' movement in some situations become enhanced with the introduction of particles in the oil-water interface.
Yuyang Wang is a chemistry major who plans to conduct research with Professor of Chemistry John Asbury. Wang’s work will focus on investigating the photocatalytic properties of ZnSe Mn2+ nanoparticles.
Please join the Department of Chemistry in congratulating this year’s recipients of the Erickson Discovery Grant.