Our biochemistry majors engage in high-caliber, real-world research experiences, beginning as early as the sophomore year. Students get the opportunity to work side-by-side with our faculty members on research projects, present their findings at scientific conferences, and may even publish their work in scientific journals.
Meet our Research Mentors
Research mentors guide our chemistry and biochemistry students through real-world, high-caliber projects. Covering a wide range of topics, these science mentors help our students navigate through fantastic projects that are regularly presented at scientific conferences.
Jeffrey TF Ashley, PhD
BS - Chemistry, 1990, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
MS - Chemistry, 1991, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada
MS - Oceanography, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL
PhD - Marine, Estuarine, and Environmental Science, 1998, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Mentorship – Students have been measuring the level of cancer-causing chemicals in ‘third hand smoke’, the residue that remains on smokers’ skin and clothes long after smoking has ceased. Students have also been evaluating the levels of mercury in baby foods fortified with fish oil and assessing the health risks of infant who ingest these products.
Why I Mentor – For me, it’s getting to see the “ah-ha” and the “uh-oh” moments that hands-on research offers that really excites me about the mentoring process. Research is tough, time-consuming, and hardly ever works as you think it will. I love providing the platform and guidance for students to see the entire process of research, from thinking of a novel research project to the joys, when all does come together, of ‘getting published’ or presenting research off-campus at conferences.
Students’ Successes – I have mentored over 40 students in research-based learning experiences over my time at Jefferson. All my students present their research at local scientific conferences. Many go on to present at state, national, or even international conferences. Some of them have worked with me to write papers that have ultimately been published. The students’ success lies in them becoming totally engaged in a research project that ultimately generates some new and usable knowledge.
Personal Research – I am interested in studying how man-made chemicals of health concern travel through urban aquatic ecosystems. I’m also interested in evaluating the health concerns of industrial chemicals that reside in everyday consumer products and apparel.
Matthew Milkevitch, PhD
BS - Chemistry, 1996, George Mason University
PhD - Chemistry, 2001, Virginia Tech
Why I Mentor – My favorite part about guiding students in the laboratory is watching them learn and apply the various techniques that are taught to them. In addition, I enjoy seeing them make projects their own and make suggestions on new areas of research.
Personal Research – I am interested in Organic Synthesis, Organometallic Chemistry, Coordination Chemistry Bioinorganic Chemistry, Anticancer Drug Development, Cancer Research, and Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy.
Niny Rao, PhD
BEng - Chemical Engineering, 1998, Cooper Union, New York, NY
PhD - Physical Chemistry/Computational Chemistry, 2002, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Postdoc - Washington University in St. Louis, MO; University of Tennessee, TN; and University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, PA
Mentorship – I worked with a student on computational study of zirconium methyl amide. I am also working with students in my Physical Chemistry class to design POGIL style worksheets and activities for Chemistry I, II, and Organic Chemistry Labs.
Why I Mentor – I enjoy extended conversation with the students about how a research can take shape. I love their enthusiasm about exploring new ideas. The best part is watching them proudly present their research at regional and national conferences.
Students’ Successes – The zirconium research was invited to compete in Penn State Regional Undergraduate Research Symposium 2012.
Personal Research – I am interested in Computational chemistry research such as dynamics studies of bioactive molecules, ab initio dynamic studies of small inorganic clusters, and research in learning gains via classroom activities in chemistry for both majors and non-majors.
Frank Wilkenson, PhD
BA - Biology, La Salle University 1992
PhD - Biochemistry, Temple University
Why I Mentor – Working with students on a research question is the single most rewarding part of my professional life. My favorite moments occur when a student gets a result for the first time often following days or weeks of trial-and-error.
Students’ Successes – Students have been contributing to scientific papers and recognized for their contribution with co-authorship. We regularly present posters at regional and national scientific meetings. Many have since progressed into graduate programs and the workplace where they build upon the skills learned doing research.
Personal Research – The projects focus on molecular mechanisms that regulate gene expression at the level of transcription initiation. Many genes important for normal development of complex organisms (such as the you) are vulnerable to dysfunction late in life and can initiate the mechanisms leading to cancer. The goal of the research is to define these mechanisms to identify early warning markers and potential drug targets.
Megan Fuller, PhD
BS - Geological Science, 2001, Virginia Tech
MS - Geological and Planetary Sciences, 2003, Brown University
PhD - Environmental Engineering, 2008, University of Virginia
Post-doctoral Fellowship - Environmental Engineering, 2009, University College Dublin, Ireland
Mentorship – Students will be studying the fate and transport of emergent contaminants such as pesticides and pharmaceutical compounds that accumulate in natural waters. Through the understanding of sorption equilibrium behavior, students will find optimal solid matrices to sequester aqueous contaminants. Low-cost, environmentally safe sorbents will be identified and characterized.
Why I Mentor – Research is the manifestation of everything I love about learning. Students have the opportunity to put their knowledge to use, wrestle with real-world issues, and experience the iterative and dynamic nature of learning through experimentation. All students can benefit from research experiences, even if they’re not destined for research careers and/or graduate school. Research gives students the opportunity to learn what drives them and what interests them. It also helps build confidence and promotes a deeper level of understanding than what can be gained in a classroom.
Personal Research – I am interested in generating chemically engineered/optimized barriers for use in water remediation. I am particularly interested in the reuse and recycling of waste streams to generate these barriers. Currently, I am researching the sorption properties of biochars. Biochars can be produced from a variety of waste streams and result in biomass reduction with little release of carbon dioxide. The production of biochars is thought to be a pathway for significant carbon sequestration, and therefore a mitigation approach to limit climate change due to CO2 emissions.