Research Projects

Student Scholarship Recognition Day (SSRD) is held each spring to celebrate the exemplary scholarship and creativity of Willamette University students. Students work directly with faculty members or design and conduct their own research throughout the year.

Featured Projects

Here are a few projects that exemplify the wonderful research students from the Chemistry department have done over the years.

Abstract: Not often can a green chemical process produce a functional, smart, and multifaceted drug which treats a serious condition. The synthesis of 5-aminosalicylic acid, also known as mesalamine, fulfills this. Our presentation explains the underlying chemistry behind the surprisingly environmentally friendly synthesis of 5-aminosalicylic acid as well as chemistry and biology that allows this drug to deliver and effectively suppress chronic inflammation of two autoimmune disorders of the digestive system, known as Irritable Bowel Disease. The prevalence of such autoimmune disorders is increasing and with no known cure, this green drug is a desperately needed crutch for the suffering population.

Madeleine Reay, Till Kallem, Alyssa Mustful (2015)

Abstract: This research paper explores the physical and chemical properties of sarin nerve agent and its synthesis. Originally developed as a pesticide, this molecule was further developed in Nazi Germany and utilized as a chemical weapon by various countries. Sarin is synthesized by combining methylphosphonicdifluoride and isopropanol alcohol, resulting in two alternate, chiral forms of the chemical. In the body, this compound inhibits muscle function by binding to acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme responsible for regulating muscle contraction. Sarin raises important questions on the ethics of chemistry.

Carli Fawcett, Amanda Mihalovich, Rachelle Williams (2016)

Abstract: The information stored within DNA has long been of interest to geneticists, molecular biologists, and medical professionals. As a result, researchers have continually been searching for new, more efficient and rapid methods to screen an individual’s genes for specific DNA sequences pertaining to disease or dispositions to chronic illnesses. Present methods for specific DNA sequence detection relies on fully denaturing the double stranded DNA (dsDNA). Here we put forth a novel CRISPR dCasa9 Sequence Enabled Reassembly (SEER) based split protein biosensor to screen dsDNA in its native state for specific target sequences. A biosensor of this kind is able locate a unique 20 base-pair sequence in the human genome allowing it to detect a single unique sequence within human genome. With applications extending past standard sequence recognition a biosensor of this kind has uses in medicine, biochemistry and molecular and cell biology.

Sam Hinton (2019)

Additional Research Projects

These are all the projects the Chemistry department has presented at SSRD in the last few years.


  • Covalent Coupling of the NHS-Ester of Trans – Ferulic Acid to Poly (Acetyl, Arginyl)Glucosamine (PAAG) - Robin Pashek 
  • Antioxidant Activity Determination of Poly (Acetyl, Arginyl) Glucosamine (PAAG)-Caffeic Acid Derivative Conjugates via DPPH Assays - Keaton Beckman 


  • Functionalization of Poly (Acetyl, Arginyl) Glucosamine (PAAG) with Caffeic Acid - Reagan Dreiling 
  • Determination of the antioxidant activity of caffeic acid-conjugated poly (acetyl, arginyl) glucosamine with DPPH assays - Lili Salinas
  • Antioxidant Activity in Caffeic Acid Treated with Folin Ciocalteu Reagent - Annette Bautista-Feliberti


  • CRISPR dCas9 as a novel in vitro DNA binding domain for use in split protein biosensors - Sam Hinton (Thesis)
  • Synthesis and Coupling of a Reactive Caffeic Acid Derivative to the Poly (Actyl, Arginyl) Glucosamine Biopolymer - Isabelle Lilly
  • Covalently Attaching Ferulic Acid to PAAG - Diego Aubert-Vasquez


  • Scavenging abilities of 2,2-diphenyl- 1-picrylhydrazyl on catechol derivatives that are attached to poly (acetyl-arginyl) glucosamine - Jewell Sparks (Thesis)
  • An Investigation of pH Dependent Reactions Between Anticancer Agent RAPTA-C and Glutathione - Jack Brett (Thesis)
  • Oxycodone: An Analysis of the Addictive Tendencies of the Most Common Painkiller - Caroline Adams, Tatiana Assefa, Madeleine Hooker, Kaitlin Manker (Poster)
  • Vantablack - Aaron Chew, Hope Heideman, Anna Swanson, Elizabeth Thome (Poster)
  • The Effects of CO2 on Climate Change - Miguel Alonso-Rodriguez, Omar Dominguez Pascasio, Jordan Greve, Timo Gunsalus (Poster)
  • Ocean Acidification - Lauren Collar, Hunter George, Phoebe Marcus-Porter, Hunter Yee (Poster)
  • The Chemistry of Cooking Food and the Maillard Reaction - Paulo Amaro, Michael Givens, Parker Russell, Nathan VanDeWalle (Poster)
  • Long Term Effects of LSD Microdosing - Vincent Chin, Lucinda Cort, Kendall Crawford, Andrew Theil (Poster)
  • The Chemistry of Cocaine - Nicholas Di Fiori, Elyssa Ellson, Luther Jessie, Elena Vasquez (Poster)
  • Neon: Small but Noble - Moncerrad Barajas Gomez, Keaton Beckmann, Sonia Cox-Raman, Tyler Merritt (Poster)
  • Assessing the Mineral/Vitamin Content of Prenatal Vitamins - Brielle Feinstein-Smith, Montana Hunter, Elizabeth Larson (Poster)
  • Synthesis of 6-mercaptopurine; Chemotherapy Drug for Leukemia - Renee Bruning, Hernan Chavez Avalos, Maria Del Rocio Ortiz-Chavarria, Estefania Ramos Torres (Poster)
  • Medical Applications of Buckminsterfullerenes - Parker Drew, Molly Hansen, Claire Johnson, Jacob Piesner (Poster)
  • From Lead to Gold to Elements 82 and 79: A Look at Alchemy and Modern Chemistry - Kiana Lee, Rebecca Min, Maya Shipway (Poster)
  • Negative Effects of Fungicide on Bee Populations in the United States and Proposing Alternatives - Tyler Vandemark, Robin Pashek, Kevin Martinez-Sanchez, Ben Sutton (Poster)
  • Fullerenes in Medicine - Corwin Bowersox, Haley Houston, Ty O'Donnell (Poster)
  • The Chemistry of the Darkest Human-Made Color - Hope Heideman, Anna Swanson (Poster)
  • Why is the sky blue? - Vanessa Almaraz, Emily Bishop, Darian Gibson, Morgan Penn (Poster)
  • Ar(t) - Artgon: Chemistry in Art - Madeline Stein, Courtney Chun (Poster)
  • Chemical Warfare vs. The World - Johnson Pham, Olivia Mack, Sara Streete, Kyle Martz (Poster)
  • Women in Science - Isabella Mejia, Edwin Zumbado (Poster)
  • The Environmental Impact of Aerial Fireworks - Alexis Barela, Misty Parker, Rebecca Richardson (Poster)
  • Acid Rain and Its Lasting Impact on the Environment - Leonor Alvarez, Karla Davila, Grasiela Quevedo-Ramos,Allison Young (Poster)
  • Fireworks and the Environment - Sarah Alper, Erica Steinberg, Helena Wetzel, Zoe Young (Poster)
  • Metallurgy: Refining and Extracting Silver from Galena - Donald Hagen, Alexander Sanchez, Daniel Zepeda Lujano (Poster)
  • The effect of sarin gas on the human body - Rachel Benning, Adrian Carlos, Anthony Richard-Bassett, Katerin Vasquez (Poster)
  • Opiates: a societal craving - Nathan Dunford, Evan Levy, Mariko Moore, Alexa Stoberlein (Poster)
  • Preservation of Art: Paint degradation rehabilitation attempts - Lauren Hakey, Monya Maleki, Samual Johnston, Lydia Savelli (Poster)
  • Understanding the Chemistry Behind Marijuana and Alcohol Consumption Interactions - Izzabella Green, Helen Madeen, Scott Methner (Poster)


  • Slingshot Phosphatase Activity is Required for the Growth and Maintenance of Ring Canals During Oogenesis in Drosophila - Melissa Rogers (Thesis)
  • Light Pollution Affects Insect Ecology in Streams - Lydia Vanderburg (Thesis)
  • The Effect of 3,6-dichloro-2-methoxybenzoic Acid (Dicamba) on Stage I-III Xenopus laevis Oocytes - Mo Xu (Thesis)


  • Acid Rain - Amanda Fong, Kaylen Higa, Michelle Nagata, Morgan Webster (Poster)
  • Aderall - Juan Marquez, Henry Montoya, Olivia Vasquez, Jameson Willems (Poster)
  • Carbon Nanotubes - Yasmine Gul, Jonny Louangrath, Kenya Reutin, Michael Ryer (Poster)
  • Chemical Detection of Performance Enhancing Drugs - Tanner Gray, Rachel Harvill, Alida Holt, Rachel Kong (Poster)
  • CO Poisoning and its Effect in the Modern Society O2 - Gabrielle Dewson, Elizabeth Habicht, Jamila Lankfod, Lauren Haky (Poster)
  • Cryo Creamery: Cryogenics in Modern Culinary Arts - Samantha Coleman, Brenda Garcia Servin, Kyly Hiatt, Yesenia Vega (Poster)
  • DDT: Chemical Significance and Historical Background - Peter Fredenburg, Daniel Huber, Hannah Ready, Angus Williams (Poster)
  • Easy, Breezy, Beautiful: Chemicals - Ariana Abend-Goldfarb, Hazel Carr, Isabelle Lilly, Alex Stacy (Poster)
  • Ethics of Chemistry: Sarin Gas and the Biochemical Effects of Chirality - Carli Fawcett, Amanda Mihalovich, Rachelle Williams (Poster)
  • Fireworks - Ian Robinson, Katie Ortega, Chi Phan, Dayton Towata (Poster)
  • Gold Nanoparticles in Cancer Thermal Therapy - Tiffany Nakama-Fukuhara, Elena O'Shea, Kricia Ruano, Mary Sloper (Poster)
  • How MDMA Changes the Neurochemistry of the Brain - Richard Anderson, Joseph Carriere, Darren Fletcher, Sydney Wilson (Poster)
  • Meth: Easy to Make, Easy to Abuse - Samantha Dueñas, Alana Gwilym Tso, Julia Payton, Elisabeth Simonovich (Poster)
  • Methotrexate in Biochemical Pharmacology - Anna Ayala, Elle Cuesta-Torres, Ying Meng, Sarah Peery (Poster)
  • Mustard Gas - Drew Bulloch, Gabriel Hartnell, Michael Koester, Devin Nakata (Poster)
  • Ocean Acidification - Erica Meier, Claire Jorgensen, Angelina Vital Torres (Poster)
  • Ozone in the Troposphere: "Good up high, bad nearby" - Cheyenne Moore, Hannah Signor, Elizabeth Silva Mendez, Milton Vuong (Poster)
  • Rounding Up Glyphosate - Anthony Cummins, Tyler Janitz, Keeton Nance, Claire Sydeman (Poster)
  • Silicon: You "Si" it All Around - Collin Barnum, Erin Bresnahan, Hannah Lea, Kaitlyn Pierson (Poster)
  • SSRIs: The Chemistry Behind the Most Prescribed Antidepressants - Justin Castro, Nathan Herrera, Zoe Reimann, Zoey Rizzo (Poster)
  • The Advantages and Disadvantages of Solid and Liquid Rocket Propellant - Victoria Bentley, Arianna Cannady, Samuel Hinton, Adam Wright (Poster)
  • The Chemistry of CO Poisoning - Rachel Dell, Reanna Lancaster, Suzannah Lehman, Klaudia Maciag, McKenna Smith (Poster)
  • The Chemistry of Fireworks - Elizabeth Corpuz, Amanda Dodd, Veronique Krebs, Cassie Logan (Poster)
  • The Contributions of Alchemy to Modern Chemistry - Ashley Alunan, Karen Espinoza, Rachel Washington, Matthew Wei (Poster)
  • The Sun's the Limit - Jessia Deely, Laura Polkinghorn, Kelly Toledo (Poster)
  • Thermonuclear Fusion - Milla Bevens, Owen Davis, Jilliann Peery, Maira Pelayo (Poster)
  • Vitamin C - Maia Klug, Yasmine Robles, Hannah Seyffert, KayLyn Stirton, Brett Youtsey (Poster)
  • Vitamin D - Wyatt Perry, Diana Sellner, Michael Sterbenc (Poster)


  • A Study of the Chemistry and Impact of Fireworks - Mason Fessler, Navi Hewage, David Luther, Antonio Malana (Poster)
  • Acid Rain and Buffers - Whitney Anderson, Kamie Johnson, Rachel Kiser Taylor, Emma Sharpe (Poster)
  • Acid Rain Causes Fish Pain - Phillip Andrews, Meagan Brown, Molly Gallagher, Rachel Rappoport (Poster)
  • Air Pollution-Chlorofluorocarbons and Its Effect on Ozone Depletion - Meilin Chen, Michelle Fensler, Lina Truong, Qiying Wang (Poster)
  • Application of Lasers in Medicine - Jack Kobylka, Liam Main, Alyssa Reese, Hannah Swanson, Kenya Tichenor (Poster)
  • Baking Soda and Pastries - Thonia Martushev, Hannah Puckett, Jewell Sparks, Kelsey Walker (Poster)
  • Bio-Chemical Warfare: Allelopathy in Invasive Species - Audrey Stueckle, Lydia Vanderburg, Eliza Walker (Poster)
  • Carbon Fibers - Jason Bayang, Margo Coxon, Cassandra Tallman, Ashlyn Witherwax (Poster)
  • Carbon Nanotubes - Jacob Blaisdell, Anna Landgren, Anya Romig, Ellen Rumley (Poster)
  • Chemical and Societal Consequences of Factory Farming - Juan Aguilera, Jordan Martin, Nicole Morozov, Sean Shepard (Poster)
  • Chemistry of Ozone Layer Depletion - Daniel Allen, Robyn Burnside, Iva Hamilton, Peyton Wahl (Poster)
  • Cocaine in the Brain - Emy DiNatale, Ben Keller, Ian Robinson, Mo Xu (Poster)
  • Cooking on the Rise: The Chemistry Behind Chocolate Chip Cookies - Michaela Cenac, Thelonious Humphreys, Emma Liband, Erin Tokutomi (Poster)
  • Emulsifiers: The life of the party! - William Cole, Alexander James, Maya Kaup (Poster)
  • Explosive Science: The Chemistry of Fireworks - Henley Ashmun, Kendra Autumn, Samuel Coste, Reid Milstead, Erik Spangberg (Poster)
  • Five Active Ingredients of Laundry Detergent - Caroline Fowler, Jake Glazer, Meridith Greer, Kenia Hernandez (Poster)
  • Fun with Fungi: Unmasking the Hidden Treasures of Psilocybin in Magic Mushrooms - Madelynn Ellis, Karin Hokanson, Sebastian Mortimer, Kyra Faulstich (Poster)
  • Haber-Bosch Nitrogen Fixation Process - Nathan Fritsch, Jaime McConachie, Brian Todd (Poster)
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup – Effects on Health - Nalani Gurnee, Jeremy Li, Furey Stirrat, Sierra Wilson (Poster)
  • Hydrogen: The Fuel of the Future - Daniel Blexrude, Courtney Ibabao, Dylan Tooley, Tyler Troxell, Shelbie Wolfe (Poster)
  • Ibuprofen to the Rescue - Mallory Asaro, Jessenia Chavez, Kathryn Moore, Nandi Moore (Poster)
  • Peroxidases Breakdown Hydrogen Peroxide Within The Human Body - Sam Adelman, Matthew Jensen, Makayla McKibben, Marcia Smith, Madison Yang (Poster)
  • Prozac - Shalini Grover, Brie Houska, Anna Kronkow (Poster)
  • Solar Voltaic Paints - Sherry Chen, Darby Hanna, Kiara Moad, Bridget Wittke (Poster)
  • Structure and Function of Vitamin D in Relation to Seasonal Affective Disorder - Madyson Harlan, Mariana Navarro, Madison Roberts, Catherine Thorn (Poster)
  • Superconductivity within the field of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) - Nathan Hechtman, Jordon Henderson, Matthew Linvill, Elliot Bullen, Elsa Roush (Poster)
  • Synthesis, Engineering and Function of Mesalamine: 5-Aminosalicylic Acid - Madeleine Reay, Till Kallem, Alyssa Mustful (Poster)
  • The Chemistry and Applications of Carbon Nanotubes - William Butler, Mallory Kennaday, Donald Swen (Poster)
  • The Chemistry and Art of Dyeing Materials - Rumer Ajifu, Ingrid Avila, Kiara Mina (Poster)
  • The Chemistry of LSD - Boris Chan, Samantha Gottuso, Maria Yasmin Martinez, Dominic Revelez (Poster)
  • The Nearly All-Encompassing Maillard Reaction - Kayla Davis, Carrie Moore, Kaeleigh Thorp (Poster)
  • Vitamin D - Jack Brett, Jordan Fickas, Brendon McCillough, Nicolas Troplent (Poster)
  • Western Alchemy: A Precursor to Chemistry - Adam Almany, Brandon Kennedy, Peter Moma, Joshua Trissel (Poster)
  • What the Frack! - Aaron Fong, Kathryn Fujikawa, Madison Markey, Kristi Miyakawa, Alyssa Jane Rosaro (Poster)
  • Yellow Prisms of Death - Joshua Beymer, Ryan Knowlton, Mikael Ruffin, Gable Tynan (Poster)
  • Entropy of Activation Determination of the First Aquation Step of the Antimetastatic Drug NAMI-A - Jennifer Graubergeer (Independent Research)
  • Redox Active Chitosan Derivatives - Emily Miller (Presidential Scholarship)
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