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NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)Chemistry

Chemistry Research Opportunities for Community College Students

The Chemistry Research Opportunities for Community College Students REU program provides opportunities for community college students to perform research in the chemical sciences in topics ranging from sustainable energy production to development of materials with biomedical applications. Participants are drawn from two-year institutions across the nation with a focus on Tidewater Community College and Thomas Nelson Community College, local institutions with high populations of underrepresented minorities and veterans. REU students gain hands-on experience in the laboratory under the close mentorship of more experienced researchers and participate as a cohort in a series of professional development activities to include seminars, panel discussions and workshops. These are designed to equip participants with the tools for success in a chemistry/STEM career. Faculty mentors provide individual career advice and support for their mentee to establish a support network that continues after the summer research experience has concluded.

Apply by February 22, 2022


Support for Research Activities

  1. $5,000 stipend over 10 weeks

  2. Housing allowance

    (On-campus or off-campus for local students)

  3. Travel support

    (Contact the program director for details)


  1. U.S. citizen or permanent resident

  2. Must be a community college student

  3. Must have completed science majors' general chemistry lecture and lab by Spring 2021

  4. Preferred GPA 3.0

  5. Students from all disciplines or majors will be considered


  1. Perform full time research with the mentor for 10 weeks

  2. Attend weekly research meeting and other events

  3. Write a research report at the end of the program

Sample Projects

New Methods For C-H Activation

Mentor: T. Bender

The REU participant will learn how to perform air-free manipulation techniques to synthesize new organometallic catalysts to perform carbon-hydrogen (C-H) bond activation. Catalysts containing multiple metals will be investigated with the goal of preparing a homogeneous catalyst that can mimic the influence of the enzymatic electric field on reactivity. The REU student will learn to use state-of-the-art glovebox and Schlenk line techniques that allow chemists to run reactions in absence of air which can contaminate the rare metals used in their catalysts. In addition, the REU student will learn how to identify and characterize organometallic catalysts using a variety of spectroscopic techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), infrared spectroscopy (IR), mass spectroscopy, and X-ray crystallography.

New Synthetic Methods with Organocatalysts

Mentor: K. Lambert

REU participants will be trained in wet chemistry techniques to develop "green" catalysts as a sustainable alternative to metals for mild, environmentally benign oxidations. These new synthetic methods have applications to natural product synthesis and the development of new pharmaceuticals and medicines. The REU student will be exposed to a diverse set of synthetic organic chemistry techniques including: rational reaction design; setting up organic reactions; purification techniques (distillation, flash chromatography, high performance liquid chromatography); and characterization of the products (NMR spectroscopy, FTIR spectroscopy, polarimetry, and high resolution mass spectroscopy).

Nanocapsules for Drug Delivery

Mentor: B. Ramjee

The REU student will explore new solvent media for photopolymerization to obtain morphologically distinct polymeric architectures, hitherto inaccessible by other means. In doing so, the participant will synthesize RTATT monomers with engineered monomer reactivity and monitor the kinetics of the thiolene photopolymerization. The participant will gain experience with multistep organic synthesis, polymerization techniques and a battery of analytical tools like NMR, IR, MS, UV-VIS, HPLC, SEC, TGA, TEM, and SEM.

Analysis of Fuel Source of Origin

Mentor: J. Cooper

REU participants will use chemometric techniques to create a model for predicting the country of origin of fuel samples. Vibrational spectra of the fuels will be collected on diamond-stage ATR instruments. Participants will also gain experience with SERS and other analytical methods as well as data-analytical approaches to problem solving.

Transformations of Terrestrial Organic Matter

Mentor: P. Hatcher

REU participants will be exposed to ongoing field and laboratory studies and gain firsthand experience with state-of-the-art analytical and extraction techniques, including multidimensional NMR, GC-MS, FTIR, and FT ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry. They will determine the nature of dissolved and sedimentary organic matter and evaluate the chemistry associated with the manner in which this organic matter is formed by transformation of terrestrial lignin or combustion residues of woody materials. Studies will be conducted at a small scale in proven experimental setups to guarantee successful data generation and a positive experience of scientific research for undergraduate students.

Hydrogen as a Fuel Source

Mentor: A. Holder

The REU student will explore the dynamics and conduct mechanistic studies of photocatalytic hydrogen generation based on supramolecular mixed-metal complexes. We will explore diimine-dioxime and polypyridines as ligands, along with a novel phosphine-based moiety as a bridging ligand, to ensure stability in acidic and weakly basic aqueous media. The REU student will also assist in the synthesis and characterization of ligands and complexes, and will be involved in the use of spectroscopy to elucidate the structures of each compound. The REU student will learn how to acquire electrochemical, NMR, and EPR spectroscopic data.

Molecular Modeling of Proteins or Energetic Materials

Mentor: C. Bayse

REU participants will use high performance computational methods to study chemical problems related to protein science or development of new energetic materials. Participants will learn the basics of running calculations using computational chemistry software on LINUX-based clusters, building and analyzing computational data though graphical-user interfaces, and interpreting theoretical results in terms of experimental data.

Development of Biochar

Mentor: J. Lee

REU participants will be exposed to ongoing biochar research at ODU, including firsthand experience with laboratory experiments on biochar production, oxygen plasma treatment, and product characterizations. These would include measuring biochar cation exchange capacity, assessing biochar water holding field capacity, determining biochar pH values, and analyzing potential biochar toxins with bioassays.

Analysis of Organic Solar Energy Collectors

Mentor: J. Mao

The REU student will learn wet chemical methods for analyzing the structure and properties of organic molecules used in solar cells, a range of advanced techniques in NMR spectroscopy, and will gain an appreciation for applying analytical techniques to the characterization of complex substances.

Synthesis of Molecular Gelators

Mentor: G. Wang

The REU participant's research will center on the synthesis of a series of D-glucose and D-glucosamine derivatives and the analysis of their self-assembling properties. They can also be used to study the controlled release drug delivery profiles. Through this interdisciplinary REU project, students will learn basic organic synthesis techniques including setting up organic reactions and characterization of chiral compounds. Depending on the individual students' interests, they can also participate in the study of their biological applications. Our lab is equipped with essential instruments for organic synthesis and characterization, including microwave synthesizer and automatic flash chromatograph systems. The participating students will learn synthetic techniques and to use analytical tools, including NMR spectroscopy and LCMS, for compound identification.

Molecular Modeling of the Schmidt Reaction

Mentor: J. Poutsma

The REU student will study the mechanisms of these reactions and investigate the basis of the different reactivities using ab initio calculations. Initial calculations on both the classic and intramolecular Schmidt reactions suggest that solvents should have a large effect on this reaction; therefore, the effect of various implicit solvation methods on the energetics of the reaction will be investigated. In particular, the REU student will apply the CPCM method at various dielectric constants to the classic Schmidt reaction and the acetone-plus-ethyl azide reaction at the MP2/6-31G(d) level of theory. From these studies, the REU student will learn about the correct application of computational methods to problems that cannot be studied by direct experiments.

Mechanical Synthesis of Organic Co-crystals

Mentor: S. Pagola

The REU participant will study solid-state mechanochemical reactions leading to the formation of organic co-crystals (such as pharmaceutical co-crystals, drug-drug co-crystals, and organic charge transfer complexes). Mechanochemical reactions can occur by grinding powders of the organic reactants together with small quantities of liquids. The potential formation of co-crystals between pairs of organic solids with different functional groups (e.g., acids and bases) will be assessed from information in the Cambridge Structural Database and its software, pKa calculations and literature searches. The REU student will collect and analyze data of various solid-state techniques (e.g., FT-IR spectroscopy, melting point determination, elemental analysis, optical microscopy, thermogravimetry, synchrotron and laboratory X-ray powder diffraction, etc.) toward understanding the solid-state reactions and the products obtained.

Research Mentors

Craig Bayse

Craig Bayse

Program Director

Trandon Bender

Trandon Bender

John Cooper

John Cooper

Pat Hatcher

Pat Hatcher

Alvin Holder

Alvin Holder

Kyle Lambert

Kyle Lambert

James Lee

James Lee

Jingdong Mao

Jingdong Mao

Dr. Silvina Pagola

Dr. Silvina Pagola

Jennifer Poutsma

Jennifer Poutsma

Bala Ramjee

Bala Ramjee

Guijun Wang

Guijun Wang

Publications by REU Participants

A. Oludrian, D.S. Courson, M.D. Stuart, A.R. Radwan, J.C. Poutsma, M.L. Cotten, and E.B. Purcell. 'How Oxygen Availability Affects the Antimicrobial Efficacy of Host Defense Peptides: Lessons Learned from Studying the Copper-Binding Peptides Piscidins 1 and 3.' International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2019, 20, 5289.

C.A. Bayse and M. Jaffar. 'Bonding Analysis of the effect of strain on trigger bonds in organic-cage energetic materials.' Theoretical Chemistry Accounts. 2020, 139, 95.

M.J. Celestine, M.A.W. Lawrence, O. Schott, V. Picard, G.S. Hanan, E.M. Marquez, C.G. Harold, C.T. Kuester, B.A. Frenzel, C.G. Hamaker, S.E. Hightower, C.D. McMillen and A.A. Holder. 'Synthesis, structure, and hydrogen evolution studies of a heteroleptic Co(III) complex.' Inorganica Chimica Acta, 2020, 517, 120195.

J. Bietsch, M. Olson and G. Wang. 'Fine-Tuning of Molecular Structures to Generate Carbohydrate Based Super Gelators and Their Applications for Drug Delivery and Dye Absorption.' Gels, 2021, 7, 134.