Each summer, UConn Chemistry undergraduate students take part in research opportunities across campus and across the globe. The three undergraduate students below offer a snapshot of their summer experiences as an Analytical Chemist Intern at The Sun Products Corporation, a Student Researcher at Fudan University, and a Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) Awardee at the University of Connecticut. Click on their photos to learn more about their summers and their advice for other undergraduate students.

For more information about undergraduate research opportunities, please see our Undergraduate Research page.

Chris Chapman
Ryan Clarke
Lacie Dube

Chris-Chapman

Chris Chapman, '17

Analytical Chemist Intern
The Sun Products Corporation
Trumbull, CT

Chris Chapman, a senior Chemistry student, participated in an internship at The Sun Products Corporation in Trumbull, CT. There, he interned as an analytical chemist in the Research and Development (R&D) facility.

How did you obtain this opportunity?

This past summer I had the awesome opportunity to experience what industry was like at The Sun Products Corporation. I had an internship as an analytical chemist at the R&D facility in Trumbull, CT which had about 90 employees. Sun Products recruited chemists directly from UConn via the career fair and the Center for Career Development in the Wilbur Cross Building. The two other interns in Formulations and Process Engineering were also from UConn.

Describe the research you conducted.

This summer, my project revolved around fragrances. I got a lot of experience on the gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (GC/MS) instrument we used to characterize the fragrances on washed fabrics. In addition to doing science, we got to experience the pine wood derby that Sun put on!

How has this experience shaped your future goals?

I now have a strong interest for analytical chemistry which I think I want to pursue higher education in.

Did a particular supervisor/mentor/colleague have a significant impact on you?

Sun Products was very good about providing a very friendly and comfortable atmosphere.

Do you have any advice to offer to other undergraduates?

I would tell undergraduates to learn as much instrumentation as possible. It would also be useful to have good examples of times you devised and implemented an innovative solution to a problem. Getting involved with research is a great way to do this. 

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clarke

Ryan Clarke, '17

Student Researcher
Fudan University
Shanghai, China

Ryan Clarke, a senior Chemistry student, participated in the Universitas 21 summer exchange program with Fudan University in Shanghai, China. He worked as an undergraduate student researcher under Ph.D. candidate Zhang Long in Dr. Guo-Xin Jin’s lab. 

How did you obtain this opportunity?

I was able to earn this incredibly unique opportunity through the University of Connecticut’s Chemistry Department, which every year sends 2 students to Fudan University to conduct international research while appreciating an astounding culture. I applied through Osker Dahabsu, my main academic advisor, and was interviewed by one of our top polymer/IMS research faculty, Dr. Jie He.  

Describe what a typical day was like this summer.

On a typical day, I would work roughly 9 AM-5 PM in the laboratory depending on the amount of work that was needed to be done. We would always break around 11 AM for lunch as a lab group. I loved some of the food in the dining hall and was able to pick up a lot of key words on ordering food from trying to communicate with the dining hall staff. I would usually go to dinner after my laboratory hours and then either go into the big-city area of Shanghai or play basketball or other sports with friends or lab mates. On the weekends I would travel very far to places like Beijing, Sichuan, Hunan, and Suzhou.

Describe the research you conducted.

My research was in supramolecular chemistry and the self-assembly of cages. I was put on an independent project synthesizing a group of large, linear organic ligands which I had clipped together using Rh/Ru metal centers. By doing this I was creating metallamacrocycles, which were then verified with a ton of characterization utilizing XRD and NMR. Coordination chemistry allowed for self-assembly of cage molecules which I was then able to place other compounds into (AKA Host-Guest chemistry). I attempted adding a compound into my cages but was unable to find any shifts in the NMR spectrum, so I could not confirm any successful host-guest before ending the internship.  

How has this experience shaped your future goals?

This experience has given me a huge increase in confidence with my ability in a laboratory. I worked with extremely outdated equipment on a subject I’ve never had any experience in before and was able to get very positive results on most of the work I did. I only wish I had a few more weeks to try and reach more conclusions! Although I am not sure about what field of chemistry I want to take part in, I do feel much more able to do research than before. Before being accepted to this program, I was heavily doubting my ability to conduct research in the future, but I am so glad I was chosen for this position to prove to myself otherwise. 

How will your summer affect your course work/your research here?

My summer definitely has me energized and excited to spend time in the laboratory and take on bigger roles in research projects. Now, I have been strongly considering applying to international universities for graduate school. I have been told that there will always be a spot for me waiting at Fudan in Dr. Jin’s lab and that was unbelievably kind of him to offer. 

What was it like entering a new culture/country virtually by yourself?

Although I’ve been abroad before, this was a much different culture than most places I have ever been. Since China has been comparatively less influenced by Europe, there are vast behavioral differences. It could get a little lonely sometimes – not knowing many people and being unable to communicate with them either. It got better with time, though: I was able to order food much easier and even hold small conversations. Once I learned how to operate the metro system I didn’t have any trouble getting around. I really didn’t face too much culture shock though, since I was prepared for what was coming and had a lot of support in the first week or two.  

What was your favorite thing to do in China?

My favorite time in China was when I took about 2 weeks to myself to travel to the most rural parts of western China, specifically Jiuzhaigou, Emeishan, and Chengdu. When I was on this trip, my favorite moment was hiking Mt. Emei, one of the birthplaces of Buddhism. I was lucky enough to meet 2 students in a hostel the night before, and the next morning at 5 AM we began a 20 mile hike of stairs. We passed numerous active Buddhist temples, one of which we spent the night in in order to continue the hike the next day. My legs were so tired from stairs that it is a miracle my legs were still functioning; they actually stopped bending about halfway up the mountain and I relied on walking sticks to carry me. On the way up, we had to fight off several monkeys. The next morning we were able to see the sunrise. It was absolutely amazing. The whole trip was by far my favorite time. Everybody was so friendly and helpful, and without students who could speak minor English, I really don’t think I would have been half as successful.

Do you have any advice to offer to other undergraduates?

My advice to undergraduates is to go abroad! Life is so much more relaxed outside of the United States! I met students who have traveled the world and have done incredible things before they went after their graduate degree. There was a completely different attitude about achievement and reaching your goals in China and it really made me step back and realize that I don’t have to feel pressured to continuously study and work. There is a lot to see, and sometimes the fear of getting left behind shies us away from it.

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dube

Lacie Dube, '18

SURF Awardee
Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF)
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

This summer, Lacie Dube worked in Dr. Jing Zhao’s research lab as the recipient of a Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) Award. Lacie will graduate in 2018 with a B.S. in Chemistry and a minor in Mathematics.

How did you obtain this opportunity?

I began research within Dr. Zhao’s lab in September of my freshman year at UConn. Due to this early start, I was given this opportunity because I already knew the basics of the lab and was able to theorize an experiment for the original proposal on my SURF application. Dr. Zhao is really the one who gave me the opportunity to advance as far as I did, while the SURF grant gave me the opportunity to stay for the summer.

Describe what a typical day was like this summer.

On a typical day, I came into lab around 9 AM and sat down with the graduate student I was working with to go over what would be done that day. After discussing procedures, I started on the list of experiments that was my goal to complete. I participated in a lot of lab work. However, while experiments were running, I researched more articles to support my theories. After the day of experiments and gathering my results, I talked—once again—to the graduate student I worked with to discuss any problems we had and what could fix them.

Describe the research you conducted.

The main goal of the research that I was conducting was to make a 3D gold plasmonic flower structure that gave off a strong surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy signal (SERS). In short, I used gold nanoparticles to create a structure that could be used as a substrate to help detect molecules that don't give off signals.

How has this experience shaped your future goals?

I was pretty ambitious and definitive in my future goals coming into this summer: I had wanted to go to graduate school to obtain my Ph.D. and continue onto doing research for a career. I think this summer confirmed, supported, and gave me confidence in my goals. I was able to experience what it would be like to be a graduate student or to participate in research for a long period of time: it gave me the confidence that I needed to see that I could do this for the rest of my life, and that I am following the correct path.

Did a particular supervisor/mentor/colleague have a significant impact on you?

All of the graduate students that I worked with in the Zhao lab had an impact on me; they became my family and friends. However, if I had to say who had the most significant impact on me, it would be Dr. Zhao and Yi Lou. Dr. Zhao encouraged me to ask questions and to be curious. She and I talked a lot about how hard it can be sometimes, but how rewarding it truly is to work in the lab. Yi was the graduate student that I worked with: she supported me so much, wanted me to test out my theories, encouraged me to not be afraid to have theories, and always gave me confidence to rely on myself and my intelligence.

How will your summer affect your course work/your research here?

This summer showed me I should continue on with research, gave me the confidence to work in different areas, and showed myself I can finish a project successfully. I will be continuing on in the Zhao Lab, as well as work even harder on my course work so that I can be even more successful.

Do you have any advice to offer to other undergraduates?

Don't be afraid to ask. If you want to conduct research, then ask. I think the start of my success was walking into Dr. Zhao's office, after only arriving to campus 2 weeks earlier, and asking her to put me in her lab. The more effort you put in, the more you will get in the output, and the worst thing anyone can tell you is no, which isn't a scary word.

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