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Interim Chair: Irene Kimaru
Phone: (585) 385-7219

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Chemistry Students to Present Research at March Conference


Three chemistry students will be traveling to Orlando, Florida in March to present their work at the annual PITTCON Conference, sponsored by the American Chemical Society (ACS). Drew Merkel, Arielle Mensch, and Kacie Rich received grants to attend the conference, and will be accompanied by Drs. Kim Chichester and Irene Kimaru.

The grants were funded by the Rochester Section Undergraduate Travel Grant Program, which provides funds each year of up to $400 towards travel and housing for undergraduate students to attend a professional ACS meeting, where they are required to present their research in a poster or oral presentation. All full-time chemistry or chemical engineering undergraduate students attending a college or university in the Rochester ACS Section are eligible for the grant.

Merkel’s project focuses on phytoremediation, which involves treating vegetable plants with chemical agents that help the plant accumulate contaminate metals from the ground. He used lettuce, beans, peas, collard, and mustard plants to remove lead from soil. Eventually, his goal is to have his research and techniques applied to neighborhoods in the city of Rochester that have a lead contamination problem in the soil, which has contributed to some children suffering from lead poisoning.

Mensch has centered her research on the Frank E. VanLare Wastewater Treatment Facility in Irondequoit. She analyzed how certain chemicals from personal care and consumer products affect wastewater treatment facilities, and eventually affect lakes, rivers, and streams.

Rich will present her pharmaceutical research project, which she worked on with fellow student, Nicole Gombert. The two looked into finding acetaminophen in pharmaceutical suspensions (dosages) and capsules using Raman spectroscopy, a technique used to study vibrational, rotational, and other low-frequency modes in a system. They used samples prepared by students in the Wegmans School of Pharmacy. The long-term goal of their research is to find a fast method for pharmacists to use right at the pharmacies to check concentrations of acetaminophen. The only method currently available to them is a method called high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) which, according to Rich, takes a long time for sample preparation, has a high cost, and cannot be done right at the pharmacy.

PITTCON is the world's annual premier conference and exposition on laboratory science. It is organized by The Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, a Pennsylvania not-for-profit educational corporation which is comprised of the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh (SSP) and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh (SACP).

The conference attracts more than 17,000 attendees from industry, academia, and government from 90 countries worldwide. Proceeds from PITTCON fund science education and outreach at all levels, kindergarten through adult.

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