Chemistry & Biochemistry

Notable Faculty & Student Achievements

January 2019

  • Computer science and chemistry double major Lauren Gillespie ’19 has been awarded an Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher award from the Computing Research Association. Only students in North American universities may compete for the award, and only four such awards were given, with other awardees coming from such prestigious universities as Columbia, Harvard, and Yale. Gillespie’s award recognizes work she has done in the field of evolutionary computation since 2016, first as a SCOPE student under Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jacob Schrum and most recently as part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates at Michigan State University under Dr. Charles Ofria. In addition to the recognition, this award will provide Gillespie with $1,500 to attend a research conference of her choice.





November 2018

  • The student chapter of the American Chemical Society (ACS) at Southwestern was selected to receive an Honorable Mention award for its activities conducted during the 2017–2018 academic year. This award recognizes the students and faculty advisors for being exemplary chemistry ambassadors through their work in service and outreach to the community. Special congratulations go to ACS President Austin Baker, class of 2019, Vice President Saarah Cantu, class of 2019, Treasurer Lauren Gillespie, class of 2019, Secretary Renee Walker ’18, and Historian Jillian Bradley ’18. Director of General Chemistry Labs Willis Weigand and Assistant Professor of Chemistry Mike Gesinski serve as the faculty advisor and coadvisor, respectively.





September 2018

  • Computer Science and Chemistry major Lauren Gillespie,  class of 2019, was awarded a $2500 Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE) Executive Council Award. UPE is a computer-science honor society. Applications are considered based on the member’s long-term plans in the computing profession, their contributions to their respective UPE chapters, and related student activities at their college.





  • Professor of Chemistry Emily Niemeyer and Maxime Boneza ’16 published an article titled “Cultivar Affects the Phenolic Composition and Antioxidant Properties of Commercially Available Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalisL.) Varieties” in the journal Industrial Crops and Products. The article is based on Boneza’s chemistry capstone project. The research was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Welch Foundation, and Southwestern’s Faculty–Student Projects Fund.





  • Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Maha Zewail-Foote was invited to give two oral presentations at the American Chemical Society national meeting in Boston. One presentation focused on using a computer simulation to teach chemical kinetics to undergraduate students. The other presentation highlighted her research on unique DNA structures and their biological functions.





August 2018

  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Mike Gesinski published a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Synletttitled “Synthesis of 1,4-Diketones via Titanium-Mediated Reductive Homocoupling of a-Haloketones.” This work describes research conducted in collaboration with three undergraduate students: Nathan Le, class of 2019, who is listed as the first author; Aimee Rodriguez, class of 2019; and James Alleyn ’15. In this publication, they describe a novel method to synthesize chemical compounds that serve as building blocks in the development of new pharmaceutical drugs.





May 2018

  • Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Maha Zewail-Foote was invited to give a seminar at the University of Houston on her research involving genetic instability and cancer. She also met with faculty and students from the chemistry and biochemistry departments.





March 2018

  • Director of General Chemistry Labs Willis Weigand and Professor of Chemistry Emily Niemeyer went with six Southwestern students to the American Chemical Society National Meeting in New Orleans, La., on March 19, 2018. The following students presented their research:

      • Tyler Adams , class of 2018, presented a poster on his research with Weigand titled “Synthesis and characterization of a copper (II) ethylene amine complex by an improved reaction methodology.”
      • Ryan Peraino , class of 2018, presented a poster on his research with Weigand titled “Synthesis and characterization of new thiadiazole sulfonamide ligands reacted with copper (II) salts.”
      • Margaret Rowand , class of 2018, presented a poster on her research with Weigand titled “Synthesis and characterization of a novel copper (II) thiosemicarbazone complex.”
      • Triston Beadle , class of 2018, presented a poster on his research with Niemeyer titled “Anthocyanin concentrations, antioxidant properties, and phenolic contents among commercially available acai berry supplements.”
      • Jillian Bradley , class of 2018, presented her poster “Surface functionalization of silicone films using click chemistry: synthetic strategies for designing mechanically tunable surfaces” based on her Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
      • Alison Riggs, class of 2018, presented a poster, “Effects of oxidative stress on non-B DNA structures in a yeast model system,” based on her research with Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Maha Zewail-Foote and Part-time Assistant Professor of Chemistry Michael Douglas.




  • Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Maha Zewail-Foote was awarded a prestigious research grant from the National Institutes of Health. Over the next two years, Zewail-Foote and colleagues will utilize a cutting-edge technology to detect DNA damage caused by environmental agents within specific DNA sequences. DNA damage can lead to genetic mutations and instability, which is responsible for many human diseases.