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Experiences & Opportunities

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Helen Hoyt

Chair & Associate Professor of Chemistry

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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A wooden model of a molecule sits on a shelf in Professor Diana Cermak's office.

7 Ways to Experience Your Education

1. Use chemistry to explore big questions.

Many of our majors pursue College Honors, which is modeled after the dissertation defense of many grad programs. Honors includes advanced research, culminating in the defense of that research before a qualified outside examiner. Here are a few examples that show the breadth of Honors projects completed by our students:

  • “Studies Probing the Structure for the GBH1 Protein Biopolymer Hydrogel.” Keegan Proctor ‘21.
  • “Toward the Isolation of Reduced Iron Hydrosilylation Catalysts.” Alexander Hegg ‘20.
  • Utilizing Copper(II) Dimers to Explore Liquid Crystalline Properties: Axial Adducts of Caprolactam, Heteroleptic Substitution, and Heterobimetallic Carboxylates.” Rebecca Katz ‘18.
  • "Alpha-Hydroxy Phosphonic Acids via Lesquerella Oil," John S.P. Cusimano '13.
  • "Utilizing the Belousov-Zhabotinskii Oscillating Reaction as an Analytical Technique for the Determination of an Analyte in Complex Solution," Matthew Becker '12.
  • "Circularly Polarized Luminescence: Calibration and Calculations for Enantiomeric Excess," Toshia Zessin '09.

2. Collaborate with professors on critical research.

Professors are constantly doing vital research in the field, and more often than not, students have the opportunity to collaborate and gain hands-on experience (often with the support of the Vovis Center for Research & Advanced Study). Philip Sydney Post Professor of Chemistry Mary Crawford is looking at developing Raman experiments and studying atmospheric chemistry. George Appleton Lawrence Distinguished Service Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Andrew Mehl is researching modern protein biopolymers called hydrogels. And Larry Welch, Clara A. Abbott Distinguished Professor Chemistry, is currently developing new methods to measure the activity of radon gas, and is using these methods to probe its underground migration.

Here are a few of the ways students are collaborating with professors with their research:

  • Allison LaSalvia ‘22 and Sung Min Jin ‘22 assisted Helen Hoyt, Associate Professor of Chemistry, with making new organometallic iron catalysts to form organic hydrosilylation products, a project motivated by principles of green chemistry. Summer 2021.
  • Laurelee Boon ‘23, McNair Scholar, worked with Diana Cermak, Professor of Chemistry, on the synthesis, analysis, and combustion of biofuels made from commercial vegetable oils.  This project will be used for the development of an across-the-curriculum experiment on biofuels in General, Organic, and Physical Chemistry courses. Summer 2021.
  • Minh (Thy) Le ‘23 and Jade Nguyen ‘23, worked with Diana Cermak on alcohol oxidation and alkene synthesis procedures for development of experimental methods for CHEM 317 Advanced Synthesis Lab, a course to be taught in Spring 2022.  This project was funded through Richter Funds.  Summer 2021.
  • Elyssa Glenn '17 assisted Thomas Clayton, Professor of Chemistry, with the synthesis and characterization of inorganic liquid crystalline materials. Summer 2016. 

3. Present (and publish) your own work.

In the last decade, members of the chemistry faculty have published 25 papers in peer-reviewed journals, and the vast majority of these include undergraduate co-authors. Many of our students present their scientific work at national and international conferences.

Here are just a few of the events they've attended:

  • 253rd American Chemical Society National Meeting, San Francisco, CA, 2017. Alejandro Beltran '17 & Diandra Soemardi '17.
  • 251st American Chemical Society National Meeting, San Diego, CA, 2016. Daniel Hong '16 & Alexander Volkov '16.
  • 249th American Chemical Society National Meeting, Denver, CO, 2015. Minda Chen '15 & Michael J. Supej '15.

4. Study off-campus.

Live a scientist's life at the Argonne National Laboratory as a research assistant. That's just one option of more than 80 opportunities to study abroad while at Knox.

5. Experience possibilities with an internship.

There's no better way to explore the possibilities of life after Knox than internships. Here are a few of our students' recent internships (found with the assistance from the Bastian Family Career Center):

  • Summer Health Professions Education Program, Jonathan Silander ‘22.
  • NSF Research Intern, Middle Tennessee State University, Garrett Trimble ‘21.
  • DoE Research Intern, Ames National Laboratory, Anne Flintgruber ‘20; Argonne National Laboratory, Annie Peterson ‘20; Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sophia Click ‘16.
  • Research Intern, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. Rebecca Katz '18 
  • Summer Chemistry Intern, BASF. Diamond Jelani ‘18.
  • Research Intern, Keck Graduate Institute. Rosemary Momoh '17. 
  • Summer Intern, Lockheed Martin. Nicolette Laird '16.

6. Join Chemistry Club.

The Chemistry Club is an affiliated chapter of the American Chemical Society. The Knox chapter has been recognized with awards at the national level and student members attend the national meeting to present their research and service (San Francisco 2017, San Diego 2016, Denver 2015, and New Orleans 2014). Other club activities include field trips, bringing speakers to campus, and going to local elementary schools to give chemistry demonstrations.

7. Mentor your peers.

As you grow in the major, apply for opportunities to assist professors with teaching laboratories as a teaching (TA) or chemistry stockroom assistant. Obtain certification as a chemistry peer-tutor with the Center for Teaching and Learning, and build communication skills by holding chemistry review sessions. Develop leadership skills by mentoring new group members who join your research lab.

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Printed on Wednesday, June 12, 2024