Penn State Altoona has set forth on a mission, a mission of discovery of new knowledge. It is this commitment that drives our community of scholars—faculty and students—to engage in ground-breaking research. College education in science isn't complete without hands-on experience. We encourage students to join in the challenge and stimulation of our various research programs.
Penn State Altoona students have the rare opportunity to actively participate in an advanced research program, sharing in the failures and triumphs of original research with their professors in nationally funded and reported research projects. Further, students gain confidence, in-depth exposure to a particular area of chemistry, expertise in advanced laboratory techniques, and, of most importance, the satisfaction of making a contribution to the advancement of knowledge in science. Our research programs and faculty are at the leading edge of scientific research in such areas as biochemistry, materials, inorganic chemistry, organometallic chemistry, isolation and synthesis of natural products, studies of fluorescence, polymers, theoretical chemistry, and molecular modeling. In addition, interdisciplinary programs in biology, physics, and engineering encompass such topics as enzyme catalysis, magnetorheological fluids, and the theory of molecular interactions.
Students interested in participating in a research project are encouraged to contact the applicable faculty member.
Undergraduate research can start as soon as your first year, so don't wait.
Recently, we received a grant from the Nation Science Foundation to purchase a Gas Chromatograph equipped with an autosampler and ion trap mass spectrometer (for more details, visit the facilities page)
The primary source of funding for the Varian CP-3800 GC came from the National Science Foundation, through the Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement program. Supplemental funding has also been provided by the Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at Penn State Altoona.
Current Research at Penn State Altoona
Dr. Bell's research group is involved in a variety of research projects involving the creation and testing of nano-materials. The materials are created through anodization and electrodeposition techniques. The physical and chemical properties of these materials have been examined for use in magnetorheological fluids, vortex mixing, chemical sensors and electrocatalysis. This research provides students with the opportunity to use advanced instrumentation and techniques such as electrodeposition, high vacuum methods, infrared and UV/Vis spectroscopy, atomic absorption spectrophotometry, mass spectrometry, scanning electron microscopy, vibrating sample magnetometry, various electrochemical techniques, and many more. Strong ties link these projects to theoretical and computational research, as well as with other areas of interest such as physics, materials science, nanotechnology, and engineering. Most projects are interdisciplinary collaborations with physics and engineering groups at Penn State and other universities and institutions. Students of all disciplines are encouraged to inquire about available openings within this research group.
Dr. Huffman’s research is rooted in both chemistry and biology and aims to discover new biologically active compounds for the development of much needed therapeutic drugs. In recent decades, microbial sources (bacteria and fungi) have been the hot spot for natural product isolation, however, microbial sources such as cyanobacteria have been greatly overlooked. Cyanobacteria do not produce any one particular class of natural products, with their molecular inventory encompassing a wide spectrum of secondary metabolites which include: lipopeptides, amino acids, fatty acids, macrolides, amides, and many others. It is the goal of the Huffman research group to study the secondary metabolic profile of various strains of cyanobacteria for novel chemical entities with novel modes of action.
Dr. Van Der Sluys’s research efforts have recently been focused on the synthesis and characterization of metal organic framework type materials (MOFs), which are two -and three-dimensional coordination polymers in which a metal ion is linked with an organic anion, such as oxalate or terephthalate. These materials have interesting electronic and physical properties which potentially make them of interest as solid-state stationary phases in chromatography applications. Dr. Van Der Sluys is also actively working with Dr. Christopher Martin, in the Engineering Department to develop am automated biodiesel reactor that will convert used fryer oil from local sources into biodiesel. This project has a number of practical applications as well as research studies that will investigate new and improved catalysts, such a group 1 and 2 metal hydroxides and alkoxides, as well as early transition metal alkoxide complexes, such as titanium(IV) alkoxides.
Dr. Xu's research interests lie in bioinorganic chemistry, modeling and catalytic studies of heme and non-heme metalloenzymes. More specifically, the research projects of Dr. Xu’s group involve the preparation, structural characterization, and study of redox behavior of synthetic heme and non-heme adducts of important small molecules, such as sulfur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and related nitric oxide organic compounds. This research provides students with the opportunity to use or get familiar with a variety of techniques such as FT-IR, UV-vis spectroscopy, NMR spectroscopy, electrochemistry, spectroelectrochemistry, mass spectrometry, X-ray crystallography. Students of all disciplines are encouraged to inquire about available openings within this research group.
Dr. Zhu's research focuses on the chemistry/biology interface, with emphasis on lignins and carbohydrates, two important biopolymers on cell walls/surfaces. The group encompasses techniques from various disciplines to address the related interesting biological, energy, medical, and synthetic challenges. The research projects span a range of fields, such as chemistry, biological sciences, agricultural sciences, and engineering. Students in the group may learn synthetic chemistry, spectroscopic and imaging approaches, and/or biochemical techniques, depending on their capabilities and motivation.
How to Get Involved
Students interested in participating in a faculty's research project are encouraged to contact that faculty member. Research is an educational, stimulating, and career-building experience that helps students' scientific professional growth. Sign up for CHEM 294 or 494 to receive one credit for every four hours of lab time per week (or as prescribed by your research adviser). If you are interested in performing a research project of your own (CHEM 496) or in an internship (CHEM 495), contact a faculty member for more details.
Summer Research Stipends
Research does not stop at the end of the regular academic year, but rather the research efforts of our faculty intensify during the summer months. Students have the opportunity to participate more closely with research projects and their advisers during the summer when they are not faced with the demands of other classwork. Students can apply for summer stipends through the Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences or may be funded through grants of individual faculty. Student grants are also available from University Park. These stipends are generally in the neighborhood of $8.00 to $10.00 an hour depending on such factors as funding availability and student experience. Ask your research adviser or faculty member for more information on how to apply for summer stipends.
Benefits of Participating in Undergraduate Research
One of the advantages of attending a major university is the opportunity to participate in internationally recognized research programs. Undergraduate research gives you the opportunity to explore research as a possible career option and allows you to work with professional colleagues in what often becomes a lifelong professional relationship.
- Your research adviser can provide you with information on job opportunities, graduate programs, and various professional schools.
- Your participation in research both develops and testifies to your independence of thought, a highly desirable trait in a scientist.
- It has been shown that students who have participated in research early in their undergraduate career are better prepared for senior-level courses.
- Employers, graduate programs, and professional schools will usually request references from your research adviser.
- You can use your research activities as a major focus when interviewing. This is a good groundbreaker for information that you are confident about discussing.
An important component of our program is a close interaction between faculty and students. Students should expect to attain practical experience in laboratory and fieldwork through internships and independent study projects related to faculty research, outside corporations, and agencies.
For more information, visit research opportunities and internships.