News & Updates

Lord Lecture: Richard Eisenberg

Monday, September 23 at 7:30pm

Ford Memorial Chapel

Distinguished 2019 Lord Lecturer is Richard Eisenberg from the University of Rochester. His topic is: “A Promise and Challenge for a Carbon-free Energy Future: Artificial Photosynthesis and Solar Generation of Hydrogen.”

Now in its 25th year, the Lord Lecture at Allegheny College is made possible by a grant from the Thomas Lord Charitable Trust. The annual event brings to northwestern Pennsylvania the nation’s most distinguished chemists and practitioners of related disciplines for residencies of up to one week.

The Lord lecturer’s principal public address is intended to engage many segments of the greater Erie community, from the basic and higher education sectors to the corporate and industrial spheres. In addition, the lecturer spends considerable time with Allegheny students and faculty members, formally and informally, sharing special expertise and perspective. As a consequence, undergraduates at Allegheny have gained broad exposure to emerging fields of inquiry.

The Lord Lecture Series

Allegheny Welcomes New Faculty

From a native of Italy who speaks five languages to a motocross enthusiast, Allegheny’s new faculty members bring many unique backgrounds and qualities to the campus classrooms in the fall of 2019. Let’s meet each of them briefly:

Kathryn BenderKathryn Bender
Assistant Professor of Economics

Kathryn Bender joins the Economics Department this fall and is helping students discover the economics of natural resources. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Centre College and her master’s and doctorate from the Ohio State University.

“I’m excited to start at Allegheny this fall,” says Bender. “I’m involved in several projects on consumer food-waste behavior and hope to find new avenues to explore at Allegheny around this topic.”

Her dissertation, “Date Labels and Food Waste: A study of the effect of label characteristics on food waste in the United States,” studies the confluence of environmental science, economics, and marketing in the food distribution ecosystem in the United States. She is also interested in exploring the effect of feminine hygiene programs in developing countries on the environment along with women’s empowerment, health, and education.

In her free time, Bender enjoys playing soccer, riding horses, and hanging out with her two dogs, Huck and Nala.

Bradley Burroughs '02Bradley Burroughs ’02
Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies

After graduating from Allegheny in 2002, Bradley Burroughs earned his master’s degree from Duke University Divinity School and his Ph.D. from Emory University. His first teaching job was at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. After resigning that position to attend to family needs, he taught for four years at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. “But I am thrilled to be back in Meadville and reconnecting to the Allegheny community,” he says.

His academic interests span a variety of theological and ethical thought. His most recent work has been in two areas. The first is Christian political ethics, which led to his first book, Christianity, Politics, and the Predicament of Evil: A Constructive Theological Ethic of Soulcraft and Statecraft. It has also led to other published pieces that assess practices of contemporary warfare. The second area of his recent work has been in how Christian thinkers have understood the concept of evil, which is the subject of his next book project.

Burroughs enjoys mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, and being outdoors generally, “or at least as much as I can do now with two kids in tow. Although not entirely unusual, one of my more surprising talents is juggling, which I learned from a hallmate in Baldwin during my first year at Allegheny.”

He also is proud that he was the first in his family to graduate from college.

Moira FlanaganMoira Flanagan
Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Moira Flanagan is a lifelong morris dancer, a form of traditional English folk/pub dancing. She is also the newest chemistry professor at Allegheny.

She has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City and a Ph.D. in biophysical sciences from the University of Chicago. Most recently, she was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Chemistry Department at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Currently, her research combines biochemistry and physical chemistry techniques to understand the physical and photoprotective properties of heterogeneous biological pigments like melanin.

“My interest in the chemistry of biological systems also shapes how I teach,” Flanagan says. “I get excited to bring biological contexts into other fields of chemistry (as often as I can), but also emphasize the physical chemistry concepts (like entropy) in biochemistry topics.

“My teaching is based on the idea that everyone can learn science if they want to and I am here to help. I reject the idea that some people ‘get’ science and math and some people don’t,” Flanagan says. “One doesn’t need to be an expert in chemistry to critically analyze and problem-solve in a new context.”

Besides her affinity for chemistry, teaching and morris dancing, Flanagan enjoys cooking, especially fish and fresh pasta. “I also won a coloring contest in my local paper when I was 4, and actually still consider myself an amateur artist in drawing and cartooning.

Jessica Harris
Visiting Assistant Professor of History

Jessica Harris received her bachelor’s in history, master’s in Afro-American Studies, master’s in history, and Ph.D. in history, all from UCLA. She also held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto in the Department of Italian Studies. She taught at Santa Monica College as well as at the University of Toronto during her fellowship.

Her research focus is on the history of the 20th century United States and the World, Modern Italy, and Black Europe, “and I am particularly interested in gender and race, their intersection with material culture, and the subsequent effect on group identities,” Harris says.

Since she studies Italian culture, “I like to watch Italian films and listen to Italian pop music,” says Harris.

Her five minutes of fame occurred as a teenager, Harris says, “when my club soccer team and I appeared on an episode of Bette Midler’s sitcom ‘Bette’.”

Mahita KadmielMahita Kadmiel
Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology

Mahita Kadmiel has spent most of her life learning about human diseases, and she enjoys teaching students about how the human body works — or fails to work — in the event of a disease.

Kadmiel taught for two years as a visiting assistant professor at Colgate University. She is trained in biomedical sciences, completing postdoctoral training in molecular endocrinology at the National Institutes of Health. In addition, she holds a Ph.D. in cell and molecular physiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master’s degree in biology from Michigan Technological University, and a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and biochemistry and medical lab technology from Andhra University in India.

“My academic interest has always been in improving our understanding of the molecular basis of human diseases,” Kadmiel says. “Too little or too much of stress hormones (glucocorticoids) and changes in sex hormone levels (estrogen and testosterone) have been linked to vision problems.”

She is investigating the function of these hormones in the cornea and retina using rodent models and cells derived from human eyes. Kadmiel also is interested in studying the role of hormone-mimicking chemicals (more commonly called endocrine-disrupting chemicals) on ocular cells and tissues and how they might influence eye health.

Kadmiel incorporates her interest in various forms of art not only in the biology courses that she teaches, but also in her time outside the classroom and laboratory.

“I enjoy working on art projects and DIY projects along with my two kids,” she says. “This is my trick to get mom-time and hobby time in one shot!”

Douglas LumanDouglas Luman
Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Douglas Luman joins the Computer Science Department from a background in creative writing and composition. He earned a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts from Bradley University and his MFA is from George Mason University, where he studied poetry and was the Heritage Student Fellow in 2017. He taught in the University Writing Program at George Washington University.

“So, suffice to say, I am an interesting fit in computer science. The way I usually explain it is that all of my work is computational, even though it is done in a humanities-leaning context,” he says.

His MFA thesis, “Prodigy House,” was a computational investigation of an early literary algorithm (“Travesty”). His other work is all computationally based. “I essentially ‘write’ aided by software that I write and others (like Google Cloud tools — Translate, Speech to Text) that I use in conjunction with writing. During graduate school, I developed a computational constraint platform that I continue to run at

“One might say that my work is less from an academic background and more out of a discipline or practice,” Luman says.

Luman is also interested in approaches to computational pedagogy: that is, what do the humanities, writ-large, have to say about teaching computer science? “Is there some way that we can use humanities-based concepts/data to teach students what it means to be responsible for their code? I wonder if there’s some distinction here to remind both students and ourselves of the perennial lesson that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should,” he says.

He and his partner, the poet Jenni B. Baker, also run a book arts press called Container, where they produce other artists’ work in three-dimensional, novel forms, “which is to say as a gem tray of origami paper gems, etched glass bottles, or as cross-stitch kits, for example,” Luman says.

Rebecca OliverRebecca Oliver
Assistant Professor of Political Science

Rebecca Oliver received her bachelor’s degree from the Université de Montréal and her Ph.D. from Northwestern University. She arrives at Allegheny after teaching most recently at Murray State University in Kentucky and, prior to that, the University of Southern California.

Oliver’s research examines the politics of inequality with respect to labor markets and social policy in Europe. Substantive topics of her work include labor union strategies, collective bargaining institutions, public opinion, childcare policy and territorial inequalities in social policy.

She is currently completing revisions for her book, “Negotiating Differences: The Politics of Egalitarian Bargaining Institutions.” The book examines the following question: Why, in the face of common growing pressures toward greater liberalization and pay dispersion, are egalitarian bargaining institutions sustained or reconfigured in some instances and bluntly dismantled in others? Employing the cases of Italy and Sweden, the book studies developments in egalitarian collective bargaining institutions.

Oliver recently adopted a puppy named Griffin. “My interests of hiking, canoe camping, exploring and getting lost in new cities/towns, making cupcakes, skiing, playing tennis, attending live jazz concerts and visiting art galleries are currently taking a back seat to dog training,” she says.

Kelly PearceKelly Pearce
Instructor, Environmental Science & Sustainability

Kelly Pearce is a graduate of Juniata College, where she majored in wildlife conservation and minored in education. She received her master’s degree in applied ecology and conservation biology from Frostburg State University, and earned her Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Appalachian Laboratory.

She is a wildlife ecologist and conservationist with research interests at the intersection of ecological and social science, including the field of human dimensions of wildlife conservation. “I use quantitative and qualitative approaches to study how environmental, social, and policy factors influence wildlife populations and species distributions. I also strive to better understand approaches that mitigate conflict and encourage coexistence between people and wildlife,” she says. Pearce also serves on the Outreach and Conflict Resolution Task Force as a member of the IUCN Otter Specialist Group.

“My research has taken me to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, where I evaluated the ability of the river otter to serve as an aquatic flagship species for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” she says. “I have also been involved in a variety of wildlife ecology projects focused in western Maryland and West Virginia, including a study on eastern spotted skunks, Allegheny woodrats, and a variety of bat species.”

Pearce enjoys live music and spends much of her free time watching and traveling for shows, she says. Pearce also enjoys motorcycle journeys. “I rode my first motorcycle when I was 3 right into the back of the garage. I still love to ride on my parents’ farm in central Pennsylvania, and this past summer I earned three first-place finishes in a vintage cross-country motorcycle race series.”

Gaia RancatiGaia Rancati
Assistant Professor of Marketing and Neuromarketing in Economics

Gaia Rancati joins the Economics Department and will teach Principles of Marketing and Business and Managerial Economics during the fall semester.

Rancati is an experienced trainer and coach in both sales and customer experience specializing in retail, sales, team building, and management. She earned her Ph.D. in marketing and neuroeconomics as well as a bachelor’s degree in marketing from IULM University, and a master’s of leadership and management from Il Sole 24ORE Business School in Milan, Italy. She is a sought-after researcher and speaker in the field of neuromarketing where she applies the science of neuroeconomics for improving customer experience in the retail field with a focus on service encounters, sales transformation and artificial intelligence.

Lauren RudolphLauren Rudolph
Assistant Professor of Biology

Lauren Rudolph joins the Biology Department with undergraduate and graduate degrees as double-majors in neuroscience and psychology. She attended Washington and Lee University for her undergraduate education and Indiana University for her Ph.D. She completed her postdoctoral studies at the University of California, Los Angeles in neurobiology and neuroendocrinology, and then taught neuroscience as a visiting professor at Pomona College.

Rudolph’s research is generally focused on steroid hormones and how they act to drive certain behaviors, such as mammalian reproduction. Her wider interests include neuroendocrinology, hormones, reproduction, sex differences, and physiology.

“I am continually impressed with the ever-expanding range of steroid hormone effects,” says Rudolph, “and how hormones can alter behaviors. I study how hormones act in ‘non-traditional’ ways to change the shape and function of cells, tissues, and organisms.”

When traveling on planes, Rudolph says she tends to get into interesting conversations because she is often working on presentations about reproduction. She sees those discussions as part of her “unofficial outreach”: sharing her research with other people.

During her time at Washington and Lee University, Rudolph played volleyball on a team which won conference champions each year, earning a place in the NCAA tournament during her four years as an undergraduate. Besides volleyball, Rudolph also enjoys the outdoors, cheese, sarcasm, making up forced acronyms, animal fun facts, and March Madness.

“I am also skilled at removing the gonads of rodents (for research!),” she adds.

Rosita ScerboRosita Scerbo
Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish

Rosita Scerbo joins the Department of Modern and Classical Languages as a Spanish instructor. Her research interests include Latin American and Chicanx visual autobiography. This includes photography, cinema, paintings, murals, and digital art. She is also a specialist in Digital Humanities and Hispanic digital pedagogy tools.

Scerbo was born in Italy but has spent most of her life studying and working abroad. “I’m a heritage speaker of Spanish, as I learned Spanish in my community as a child before I dedicated my life to the Hispanic language and culture academically in school and in college.”

She taught Spanish and Italian language, literature, and culture at West Virginia University during her pursuit of a master’s degree and at Arizona State University while earning her doctorate. She also has taught Spanish in Sevilla, Spain, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, during study abroad and Spanish immersion programs. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Calabria in Italy.

“I speak five languages,” says Scerbo. “I went to dance school for many years, and I’m particularly passionate about Latin dances, including salsa, bachata, and merengue. My two daughters’ names — one is human and one is canine — are Sol and Luna, that is Spanish for sun and moon.”

Sarah StangerSarah Stanger
Assistant Professor of Psychology

Sarah Stanger joins Allegheny’s Psychology Department and also plans to provide assessment and treatment services to children and families in Meadville as she works toward clinical licensure. Stanger attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She says her time there “ignited my passion for contributing to a learning community like Allegheny.” Stanger then traveled cross-country to attend the University of Vermont, where she taught undergraduate courses and earned a joint Ph.D. in clinical and developmental psychology.

Most recently, Stanger was in Portland, Oregon, completing her predoctoral clinical internship. While there, she provided assessment, consultation, and treatment services for children and families in a hospital-based setting.

Stanger hopes to observe interactions between families and children in a laboratory setting while at Allegheny. “I am interested in understanding the development of adaptive stress responses — both physiological and behavioral — in children and adolescents,” says Stanger. “This includes examining how parenting and other contextual factors, such as family socioeconomic status, contribute to this development.”

Outside of her professional life, Stanger has competed in horseback riding, enjoys skiing and snowboarding, and has a love for college sports and theater. She anticipates learning to cross-country ski while in Meadville, as well as attending her students’ productions and sporting events.

Asmus TrautschAsmus Trautsch
Writer in Residence

Asmus Trautsch studied philosophy as a major and German literature (modern and medieval) as a minor at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, and at the University College London in Great Britain. In addition, he studied composition/music theory at the University of the Arts in Berlin. He earned his Ph.D. in philosophy at Humboldt University, spending a term as a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York City. He has taught philosophy at the University of Dresden and has been a guest lecturer at other universities.

His research interests include contemporary poetry, philosophy of tragedy, philosophy of literature, philosophy of music, ancient Greek philosophy, aesthetics, and ethics.

“My interests lie in the arts, including fine arts, film and dance and in the ways in which the sciences and the arts work together for enabling understanding and new knowledge,” says Trautsch. “Also I’m passionately interested in how philosophy and literature can contribute to educating society and improving politics.”

Trautsch likes to engage in “entertaining dialogues with lots of curious questions,” bake cakes, conduct orchestras and play various musical instruments. He shares a fun fact from his past: “I once won second prize in a competition called ‘Dance Your Ph.D.’ in Dresden.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

The College Prize of the Society for Analytical Chemistry

The winner of this year’s prize is MATTHEW HUTCHINSON ’19.

It isn’t all beakers, flasks, and test tubes for chemistry major Matthew Hutchinson. Although Matt spent much of his time at Allegheny in the lab, he also minored in Global Health Studies and found time to volunteer at the local soup kitchen in Meadville and work alongside fellow project assistants at Creek Connections. As Matt looks beyond Allegheny, he plans to attend grad school in the fall. Additional clubs and activities he was involved with include Beta Chi chemistry honor society and Chemii.

Quote: My success and fascination with chemistry is due in no small part to the excellent mentorship I have received while at Allegheny. Department faculty are not only extremely knowledgeable in their field but dedicated to sharing their knowledge through teaching.

Best wishes to Matt in all his future endeavors!

ACS Conference in Orlando, Florida

Seven of Allegheny’s chemistry and biochemistry students presented their research at the American Chemical Society annual conference in Orlando, FL on March 30-April 2. Congratulations to all of you! The gator community is so proud!

Alexandra Metzger ’19

Kathryn Sutter ’20

Wenzhou Yang ’20 and Tiffany Choi ’19 present their research on the reaction of organofluoroborates with benzyne in tandem with coupling chemistry.

Katelyn Perroz ’20, one of the chemistry department’s Lord Fellows, presents her research on Rok1p, a protein that is upregulated in many of the most common forms of cancer.

Katie Perroz, Amanda DiLoreto ’20 and Kate Sutter before their poster symposium. They presented alongside many undergraduate and graduate students as well as many professors.

Allegheny Basketball Faculty Appreciation Night

Chemistry professors were honored at the Basketball Faculty Appreciation Night.

Annual Lord Lecture to Discuss “New Sensors Empowered by Molecular Electronics”

Timothy Swager, Ph.D.
Timothy M. Swager, Ph.D.

Timothy M. Swager, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry and director of the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will present the annual Lord Lecture at Allegheny College on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 7:30 p.m. in Ford Memorial Chapel. The lecture, titled “New Sensors Empowered by Molecular Electronics,” is free and open to the public.

Swager graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Montana State University. From there, he received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology, graduating in 1988. Following a postdoctoral appointment at MIT, Swager was a part of the chemistry faculty at the University of Pennsylvania from 1990 to 1996. After this, he returned to MIT and served as the head of chemistry from 2005 to 2010. Swager has published over 400 peer-reviewed papers and has more than 80 issued/pending patents.

Swager’s research interests are in synthesis and design. He also studies organic-based electronic, sensory, energy harvesting, membrane, high-strength, liquid crystalline, and colloid materials. The liquid crystal designs formulated by Swager demonstrate shape complementarity to generate specific interactions between molecules, and include fundamental mechanisms for increasing liquid crystal order through what is referred to as “free volume.”

The research Swager has done in electronic polymers has demonstrated new conceptual approaches to the construction of sensory materials. The Fido ™ Explosives detectors (FLIR Systems Inc), which have the highest sensitivity among explosives detectors, are based on these methods. The Swager group also investigates radicals for dynamic nuclear polarization, applications of nano-carbon materials, polymer actuators, organic photovoltaic materials, the application of nano-carbon and materials, membranes, and luminescent molecular probes for medical diagnostics.

Swager has also founded four companies: DyNuPol, Iptyx, PolyJoule, and C 2 Sense. He has also served on numerous boards- corporate, and government alike. Swager’s honors include election to the National Academy of Science, election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an honorary doctorate from Montana State University, The Pauling Medal, and the Lemelson-MIT Award for Invention and Innovation. Additionally, Swager has earned The Christopher Columbus Foundation Homeland Security Award, and The Carl S. Marvel Creative Polymer Chemistry Award (ACS).

The Lord Lecture has been bringing the nation’s most distinguished chemists and scientists to Allegheny annually since 1991 and is made possible through the support of the Thomas Lord Charitable Trust. The fund is closely linked to the Lord Corporation, a major manufacturer of adhesives, rubber chemicals and other products.

For more information, contact the Allegheny College Department of Chemistry at (814) 332-5363.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Annual Lord Lecture to Discuss “Designing Medicine’s Holy Grail”

Joseph Harding
Joseph Harding, Ph.D.

Joseph Harding, Ph.D., professor of integrative physiology and neuroscience at Washington State University, will present the annual Lord Lecture at Allegheny College at 8 p.m. on Monday, April 9, in Ford Memorial Chapel. His talk, “Designing Medicine’s Holy Grail: Development and Therapeutic Potential of Small Molecule Growth Factor Mimics,” is free and open to the public.

Harding graduated from Allegheny College in 1970. (His wife, Barbara, also a chemistry major, graduated from Allegheny in 1969.) He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Delaware in 1975 and has served on the Washington State faculty for more than 40 years.

Harding’s laboratory currently has been developing small molecule allosteric regulators of major growth factors as pharmaceuticals for the treatment of various clinical indications ranging from neurodegenerative diseases to cancer to defective wound repair. His research activities have been funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense, Life Science Discovery Fund, Murdock Foundation, Michael J. Fox Foundation, Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, and National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Harding also is chief scientific officer, director and co-founder of M3 Biotechnology, Inc. The Seattle-based company is developing novel treatments for neurodegenerative diseases based on technology developed at Washington State.

Harding is the co-author of more than 220 peer-reviewed and invited publications and lead inventor on nine U.S. and numerous foreign patents. He has served on several NIH study sections, has been a past research director for the Washington chapter of the American Heart Association, and has been the recipient of an American Heart Association Established Investigator Award and a Fogarty International Fellowship.

The Lord Lecture has been bringing the nation’s most distinguished chemists and scientists to Allegheny annually since 1991 and is made possible through the support of the Thomas Lord Charitable Trust. The fund is closely linked to the Lord Corporation, a major manufacturer of adhesives, rubber chemicals and other products.

For more information, contact the Allegheny College Department of Chemistry at (814) 332-5363.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Brigham Publishes Journal Article in Macromolecules

Natasha Brigham ’17 published an article entitled “Manipulation of Crystallization Sequence in PEO‑b‑PCL Films Using Solvent Interactions” in the journal Macromolecules. The article is based on her research with Associate Professor of Chemistry Ryan Van Horn. Several other Allegheny graduates, Christopher Nardi ’15, Allison Carandang ’15, and Kristi Allen ’16, were co-authors of the paper.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Professor Timothy Chapp to Speak in Weiss Lecture Series

Allegheny College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Timothy Chapp will present “Hydrogen, Hydrogenases and Their Potential Roles in Contributing to Sustainable Energy.” The lecture is a part of the Karl W. Weiss ’87 Faculty Lecture Series, and will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. in Campus Center 301/302.

Chapp will be speaking on how hydrogen gas can contribute to alternative energy solutions, specifically through electrolysis. His presentation will analyze how hydrogen, found primarily in bonds with other elements, can be withdrawn from those bonds into a usable state. He will also analyze how the natural gas industry influences hydrogen collection in his pursuit of more efficient electrolysis.

The Karl W. Weiss ’87 Faculty Lecture Series features professors from various departments representing the diversity of scholarship at Allegheny. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Student Earns Honors at American Chemical Society National Meeting

Max Steffen

As a first-year student, Max Steffen stepped forward to learn more when Allegheny College chemistry professor Ryan Van Horn mentioned a research project on polymers.

It’s a step that eventually took Steffen, now a rising junior, all the way to San Francisco. That’s where he earned third-place honors for his poster presentation at the American Chemical Society’s Undergraduate Research in Polymer Science Symposium, part of the organization’s national meeting and exposition in April. The title of Steffen’s poster was Isothermal Crystallization Analysis of PEO-b-PCL with Larger WPEO or WPCL.

After initial conversations with Van Horn about the polymer project, Steffen began to conduct research in the professor’s lab in spring 2016. Van Horn then invited Steffen to continue the research on campus that summer.

“So I stayed over the summer, and the project that I worked on was part of what I presented in San Francisco,” said Steffen, a biochemistry major and psychology minor from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

In simple terms, a polymer is a chemical compound where many repeating molecules bond together to form large chains. Steffen’s project investigated a unique polymer with applications in better understanding drug delivery in the body and improving devices such as contact lenses and knee and hip replacements.

This specific polymer is biodegradable, biocompatible and amphiphilic (composed of “water-loving” and “water-hating” parts). The research looked at the impact of temperature, specifically cooling the polymer to sub-room temperatures.

Steffen is quick to point out that the research was a group effort. Three other students who work in Van Horn’s lab also attended the conference in San Francisco.

“We all have separate projects, but we all talk about them,” Steffen said. “And when things aren’t working, we’re there for each other. We can work through it all together — especially Dr. Van Horn. He’s made my Allegheny experience just great.”

Van Horn encouraged his students to submit proposals for the conference, where he also led a talk. “We got some really great results and that’s why we went to the conference,” Steffen said.

Steffen showed off his poster alongside hundreds of other student presenters. The conference opened a door for Steffen to connect with polymer experts who stopped by to ask questions about his work, spawning ideas for future research including his Senior Comprehensive Project.

“It’s all going to fit in and flow together,” Steffen said of what he learned in San Francisco.

In the long term, Steffen plans to attend medical school and complete a residency in orthopedic surgery and a fellowship in orthopedic traumatology. For now, he’s spending the summer interning in the healthcare field. Steffen will return to Allegheny — and Van Horn’s lab — in the fall.

“I would have never thought coming here that I would go to a poster session in California,” Steffen said. “It was a really cool opportunity and experience.”

And he’s already looking forward to another adventure: next spring’s American Chemical Society meeting in Boston.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research