Chemistry and Biochemistry News and Achievements
January 30, 2018   //   By:   //   Achievements

James MacKay, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, cohosted a three-day workshop at Binghamton University (BU) aimed at introducing a collaborative project “Nucleobase-Modified Peptide Nucleic Acid for Sequence Selective Triple-Helical Recognition of Non-Coding Ribonucleic Acid” to Elizabethtown students Amanda Williams ’18, Kayla Hess ’18, Aubrey Maryniak ’19, Ryan Thomas ’19, Emily Kagarise ’19, Michael Perzel ’20, Sarah Moyer ’20 and Kaitlyn Jacoby ’20 along with Dr. Lauren Gibson, assistant professor of chemistry.  The project is an ongoing research collaboration between Elizabethtown College faculty members and students and the Rozners Group at BU.  The research project is the topic of CH 455/456, Integrated Laboratory.

Participants were exposed to synthetic, analytical, and biophysical techniques used to study RNA, heard several lectures about nucleic acid (bio)chemistry and engaged in stimulating discussion around this collaborative project.  In the lab, students made Peptide Nucleic Acid and performed analysis of binding with RNA (made a triple helix). In addition, they had an opportunity to learn more about graduate studies at BU and interact with BU faculty and students.


James MacKay, Chemistry and Biochemistry, with Katie Olsen ’14 and Matthew Jensen ’16 published a paper, titled “A mild halogenation of pyrazoles using sodium halide salts and Oxone” in the journal Tetrahedron Letters. This paper is the result of an ongoing research project performed jointly between MacKay and Elizabethtown undergraduates. The work presents an environmentally friendly or “green” method for functionalizing molecules called pyrazoles. Previous approaches led to the formation of harmful byproducts or required dangerous solvents. The reported method bears the potential to be used in pharmaceutical applications and/or the synthesis of new materials.


Lauren Gibson, assistant professor of chemistry, published a paper in Malaria Journal. The publication presents the development of an assay for diagnosis of malaria and results from analysis of patient samples from rural Zambia. The article can be accessed at DOI 10.1186/s12936-017-1996-4.

James MacKay, associate professor of chemistry, was awarded a $196K grant from the National Science Foundation to work on the collaborative research project: “Nucleobase-Modified Peptide Nucleic Acid (PNA) for Sequence Selective Triple-Helical Recognition of Non-Coding Ribonucleic Acid (RNA).” The project is a partnership with Eriks Rozners, professor of chemistry and Chemistry Department chair at Binghamton University, who received a complementary award to support related activities. As part of this project, MacKay spends a sabbatical year at Binghamton University focused on jumpstarting the collaborative activities. The project is aimed at the development of new methods for molecular recognition of biologically-significant, non-coding RNA. The project expands interdisciplinary, collaborative research across traditional institutional boundaries and contributes to improving STEM education.


June 2017

James MacKay, associate professor of chemistry, and Jeff Rood, associate professor of chemistry, participated in a National Science Foundation-sponsored workshop on microwave chemistry, hosted at St. Mary’s College of Maryland from June 8 through June 10, 2017.

MacKay was a facilitator and Rood was a participant in this hands-on workshop aimed at using microwave reactors in the teaching laboratory as a means of acceleration of reactions to transform chemistry curriculum.  MacKay and Rood are currently in the process of developing new laboratory experiments to use in the College’s Chemistry Labs.


December 2016

Jeff Rood, associate professor of chemistry, and research students Ashley Landis ’15, D.J. Forster ’14 and Tim Goldkamp ’12 co-authored “Solvent dependence of the solid-state structures of salicylaldiminate magnesium amide complexes,” which was published in Acta Crystallographica C.

November 2016

Jeff Rood, associate professor of chemistry, Kayla Hess ’18 and Sitara Ramjit ’18, presented research posters July 28, 2016, at the 8th-Annual Landmark Conference Summer Research Symposium at Moravian College. More than 100 participants attended and 90 student presentations were given. Hess and Ramjit presented on work carried out through SCARP with Rood and Kristi Kneas, dean for academic affairs and faculty development. Their project focused on luminescent metal-organic frameworks (LMOFs) that could be used for sensor applications.


October 2016

Kristi Kneas, dean for academic affairs and faculty development and associate professor of chemistry; Jeff Rood, associate professor of chemistry; Amy Wagner ’15, Sarah Strohecker ’12 and Elizabeth Costello ’12 had their research, “Water-Soluble Osmium Complexes Suitable for use in Luminescence-Based Hydrogel-Supported Sensors,” published in the November 2016 issue of the Journal of Fluorescence.

James MacKay, associate professor of chemistry, and Kayla Hess ’18, Brian Lupold ’17, Chris Ryan ’17, Holly Sofka ’17 and Amanda Williams ’18 attended the 19th-annual Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Chemical and Biological Sciences Saturday Oct. 22. Ryan took first place in his section for his poster “Synthesis and Characterization of Polymerizable Dapoxyl Dyes for Luminesence-Based Sensing.” Sofka won first place in her section for the poster “Design and Synthesis of a 2,5-oxazole Nucleobase for Triplex Formation with Watson-Crick A-U Base Pairs in Double Stranded RNA.”  Hess earned second place in her group for the poster “Luminescent Metal-Organic Frameworks Containing Osmium and Rhenium Carbonyl Metal Complexes.” MacKay served as a judge for one of the sections.

Gary Hoffman, professor of chemistry and department chair, is co-author for an invited seminar “Supercapacitors Based on Carbon-Nanotube Forests” that took place at the Scientific Workshop on “Ions in Solution: Biology, Energy, and Environment” in Telluride, Colorado, on July 15, 2016.

May 2016

Matthew R. Jensen ’16 and Jessica E. Pigga ’16, delivered oral presentations at the 80th Annual Convention of the Intercollegiate Student Chemists (ISC) hosted by the chemistry department of Ursinus College April 16, 2016. Jensen’s presentation earned second place in the organic chemistry division for research with James MacKay, associate professor of chemistry. Pigga’s talk won first place in the inorganic division for her work with Jeffrey Rood, associate professor of chemistry, and Charles Schaeffer, A.C. Baugher Professor of Chemistry emeritus. The ISC convention is the oldest continuous meeting of its kind in the United States. Junior and senior chemistry majors from 15 undergraduate institutions in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland delivered more than 30 oral research seminars in five areas of chemistry. Judges evaluated each presentation.

About the Author :

E.A. (Elizabeth) Harvey is the communications manager and news editor at Elizabethtown College. She has worked in the Office of Marketing and Communications since 2008, after more than two decades as a newspaper feature writer. She holds a bachelor's degree in corporate communication from Elizabethtown College.