Capping off the summer in the chemistry lab

Capping off the summer in the chemistry lab

Posted by: on August 11, 2016   |Comments (0)|Walsh Fellows

Welcome back, guys!

Well, the biologists won the wiffle ball game 11–10. I, however, think that the chemists had a better spirit, and we should have gotten bonus points for having professors participating on our team.

The last week of research consisted of finishing up summer trials and preparing for research in the fall semester. For many of the researchers, that also included preparing a poster to present at the 9th Annual RI SURF Conference. SURF, or the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program, helps undergraduate researchers in Rhode Island fund their summer research, and most research students in Rhode Island come together with faculty and guests to share their work at the end of the summer. I presented my research last year and had a complete blast.

brianna-lastThis year, however, I did not make a poster for the conference (we’re saving our findings for the American Chemical Society conference in San Francisco!), but I still made an appearance and learned what everyone was up to in Al Mag this summer. Here’s a picture of the chemistry kids wearing something other than sweatpants for the first time in two months.

I also learned about what the other departments were up to – from tracking circadian rhythms in rats to isolating predatory bacteria, Providence College researchers sure got a lot done!

To celebrate the success of the SURF Conference, Dr. Mulcahy invited the undergraduate research chemists, the professors, and their families to his house for a barbecue/potluck! Even though I made a poor showing by just bringing some lemonade, the day was filled with burgers, homemade guacamole, hot-pockets, and Oreo-themed dessert! We also managed to play a few rounds of Spike-Ball despite our incapacitated stomachs.

Then, unfortunately, it was time to say goodbye to the summer crew; but a goodbye for scientists usually never lasts more than a few weeks! Unlike other fields of study where research occurs primarily in the summertime, research in Albertus Magnus continues year-round. I’ll continue my research with Dr. Breen as well; you won’t be able to kick me out of that lab until I graduate. Looking forward, I’m going to be researching how cell membranes interact with plastic nanoparticles, keeping in line with my ocean-themed research.

To cap off the summer, I’m going to leave you with an insight from one of our chemistry professors that I think captures the essences of what goes on in Friartown when the rest of campus has gone home: “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be research” – Dr. Overly

Research is all about reaching out into uncharted territory in creative and practical ways. You hardly ever know the answer or if there is going to be an answer; and sometimes that can get frustrating, but it’s a small price to pay for being a part of the community set to solve the world’s problems and uncover mysteries that the Earth has left buried for us to find.

Thanks to everyone who kept up with my adventures in and out of the lab in the summer. If you need to find me, I’ll be reading science-y books and lounging by my pool until they let me back in the Fall!


Welcome back, guys! Well, the biologists won the wiffle ball game 11–10. I, however, think that the chemists had a... MORE

Life in the lab: Back at home (and missing Max)

Posted by: on July 15, 2016   |Comments (0)|Walsh Fellows

Hi guys!

After more than a month of wandering around Al Mag, I’m finally moving into my renovated lab! That means I’m going to spend the majority of the day carting chemicals back and forth and attacking things with a label maker. Unpacking boxes also means finding objects that have been hiding in a lab for 20 years and attempting to find a spot for them. How am I supposed to categorize an old computer mouse, a pink geode crystal that looks like it was purchased from an aquarium, and a mysterious wooden box labeled ‘government property?’

Max is not having nearly as much fun as I am this summer — he suddenly entered a coma during one of our trials. He refused to respond and is currently in New Jersey seeking treatment.

Although this tragedy set us back quite a bit, Roger Williams University down the road in Bristol, R.I., offered for us to come down and use their fluorometer while Max is recovering. We’ve also spent some time at URI this summer — proving that science really is about collaboration. That chemistry collaboration also exists within the Providence College Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. There’s actually so much collaboration that I convinced my fellow researchers in the department to star in a little video that I decided to make one afternoon as a spoof of The Office.

Despite taking group trips to the grocery store, going on coffee runs to several different places, and hanging out with friends and seeing Finding Dory (in addition to shooting and editing that entire video), I promise I do actually get work done in lab. We just finished collecting all of the data for the Extended Lipid Hypothesis project last week and are slowly chipping away at writing the paper. I consolidated all of the data into graphs for the easiest display and wrote the “experimental,” or the procedure, so far. Hopefully it’ll be published in time for me to apply to graduate school!

Since I’m done collecting data for that project, I’m focusing more heavily on my second project while the paper is coming together. The second project I’m working on consists of radiating different plastics, specifically polystyrene and PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate) with UV light and observing how their chemical structure changes as a result. When plastics come in contact with UV light for an extended period of time, the UV light breaks weaker bonds in the structure of the plastics and creates substances with odd-numbered electrons known as free radicals. These free radicals then react with the other particles of plastic and with each other — altering the chemistry of the plastic.

We monitor the plastics, furthermore, in water, and eventually hope to study this degradation of plastic in a mock-ocean environment. That way we can hope to better understand how plastics in our ocean affect the environment so we can work on preventing those effects!

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more information on my summer research in Friartown (and the much more important Chemistry vs. Biology wiffle ball game rumored to happen this weekend)!


Hi guys! After more than a month of wandering around Al Mag, I’m finally moving into my renovated lab! That... MORE

California Love: Chemistry students, faculty attend San Diego conference

Posted by: on April 8, 2016   |Comments (0)|Undergraduate Research

seanHi, everyone!

I want you to meet my friend and fellow chemistry major, Sean Goralski. Last month, Sean went to the American Chemical Society (ASC) meeting in San Diego, and I want to share with you some of his experiences.

Here at PC, Sean conducts organic chemistry research under Dr. Kenneth Overly. Sean went to the ACS meeting as a representative of Dr. Overly’s research group. (Satyam Khanal went to ACS as the representative from my research group under Dr. Seann Mulcahy.) Sean and the PC group — consisting of three professors, a post-doctorate, and two other research students — attended the ACS meeting from March 14 to March 16. While I was enjoying a few days off from my chemistry classes (which were cancelled because my professors were in San Diego) by catching up on some sleep, Sean was enjoying himself in an entirely different way.

acs-logoEvery day, Monday through Wednesday, Sean and the PC group would wake up fairly early to attend 20-minute research presentations throughout the morning. The presentations ranged from different fields of chemistry and research. Most of the presentations were given by graduate students or researchers at universities, but some presenters were representing pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical company presentations were interesting because the presenters were not able to reveal too much information about their research due to pending patents. In general, though, Sean liked how these presentations exposed him to different areas of chemistry that he has not been very exposed to, such as medicinal chemistry. Since the presentations were short, it allowed him to attend many presentations. This exposure to different types of research was very beneficial since he is, like me, considering going to graduate school.

In the afternoons, there were undergraduate poster sessions, which each PC student presented at. Each day, a different field of chemistry was represented. There were also graduate and post-graduate poster sessions. Sean and another PC student were particularly excited to recognize the author of the solution manual to their Quantum Mechanics textbook. They thanked him for helping them pass that class, which amused him! Sean also saw and spoke with a PC graduate.

So, for Sean and the other students, this was more than just attending presentations and poster sessions. They interacted and connected with other researchers to learn more about the opportunities in the field of chemistry. At ACS, there were even mock interviewers and resume reviewers to help undergraduates prepare for their next step.

Overall, it was a great experience for Sean, who was able to explore the city a little, as well as learn more about chemistry and research. After talking to Sean, I hope to attend the next ACS meeting in 2017 to experience these same things!

Signing off,
Caroline Foley

Hi, everyone! I want you to meet my friend and fellow chemistry major, Sean Goralski. Last month, Sean went to... MORE

Searching for cures: Drug discovery in the biochemistry lab

Posted by: on January 25, 2016   |Comments (0)|Undergraduate Research

c-foleyHi, everyone!

My name is Caroline Foley, and I am excited to be blogging this semester for Dr. Seann Mulcahy’s lab. I have never written a blog before, so you will have to excuse my terrible iPhone quality pictures and my inadequate writing when compared to that of Bri Abbott!

I just want to introduce myself a little. I am from Westfield, Massachusetts, and I am a junior biochemistry major here at PC. I have been a member of Dr. Mulcahy’s lab since the start of last summer, during which I spent 10 weeks learning the ropes of research. Before I tell you about what exactly I do in research, though, I know you are dying to learn some random facts about me. So here we go:

  • I have three siblings and am the second oldest in my family.
  • My younger sister and I are best friends, and although it should probably be the other way around, she teaches me all I need to know about makeup and keeps me updated on all the latest trends.
  • I also really like country music, but my music taste is broader than just this. Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox Twenty, and Ed Sheeran will forever be staples on my iTunes library. Also, I have recently become a “Belieber” thanks to Justin Bieber’s new album. I’ll make it to one of his concerts someday.
  • During the summer, I absolutely love going to Cape Cod and to the beach. If only I could spend my entire summer there. Really, I enjoy anything that will help me get a tan. As I sit here, following the first snow storm of the season, I know winter is definitely here. No more concerts, beach trips, or outdoor activities. It’s the season of Netflix. Any suggestions? I have one for you. Gilmore Girls — the greatest TV series ever created.

Now, what is it I do in research? In the Mulcahy lab, one of the things we are interested in is making biologically active compounds that can aid in drug discovery as potential drug targets. As a biochemistry major, I am interested in this, as well. I have never really wanted to be a doctor, but I am interested in human health and drug research. I think creating a drug that could treat or cure a particular ailment would be amazing. In my lab, we are synthesizing molecules that can potentially bind to a human brain receptor associated with conditions such as mood, sleep, anxiety, and stress. If these compounds bind to this receptor, they could potentially act as drugs to inhibit or treat these conditions. This semester I plan to finish synthesizing our target molecules so that we can send them out to be tested for binding capability to the human brain receptor of interest.

That’s all I have for you today, though! I am happy to be back at PC for another semester of research. Stay tuned for my upcoming blogs to learn more about me and my research!

–Caroline Foley ’17

Hi, everyone! My name is Caroline Foley, and I am excited to be blogging this semester for Dr. Seann Mulcahy’s... MORE

Summer Research Leads to Boston

Posted by: on July 1, 2015   |Comments (0)|Walsh Fellows

satyamHi – I’m Satyam Khanal from Kathmandu, Nepal, and I am a senior biochemistry major doing research this summer as a Walsh Summer Research Fellow in the lab of Dr. Seann Mulcahy. I will be blogging this summer about my experiences in (and out of) lab.

On Thursday, June 18th this past week, as I was getting ready to continue my research in Hickey Hall, Dr. Mulcahy, our PI, announced that we had the opportunity to go and see the 15th Annual BU- Center for Molecular Discovery (BU-CMD) Symposium on the next day. We were immediately interested at the opportunity of going up to Boston to attend the event. From my own past experience, symposiums, seminars, poster sessions, etc. are excellent ways to gain more knowledge on the current research conducted by other groups and to learn more about application of chemistry in other, overlapping fields–especially medicine. So, I was naturally excited when I met my research team at the train station on Friday morning. We took the commuter rail up to Boston and got off at Back Bay Station. It was a 20-minute walk from the train station to the Life Science and Engineering Building of Boston University. While we walked, Seann showed us around, and we passed by the Public Library, which was also close to the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Seann also showed us the direction of the close-by Fenway Park, home turf of the Boston Red Sox. To amuse myself, I counted all the Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks coffee shops that I could see (by the end of the day, DD won 5-3).

After we reached our destination, we grabbed a quick breakfast provided by BU-CMD and then the symposium started off with opening remarks by the Director of BU-CMD Professor John A. Porco. He explained that BU-CMD focused mainly on discovering novel, small molecule chemicals designed to be used as medicinal probes. The seminar presentations that followed Dr. Porco’s introduction were on the same track. The first seminar given by Dr. Paul Hergenrother from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was titled “Traversing the Valley of Death to Anticancer Drug Discovery.” During the presentation, he explained how difficult it is for organic molecules made in the synthesis lab to actually make it through to the drug industry. It was captivating for our group, especially because we also synthesize organic molecules in lab for research–it was good to see the application of research similar to ours in the real world. Dr. Alanna Schepartz from Yale University gave the second talk–“How EFGR encodes and decodes chemical information”. She explained how an extracellular messenger molecule communicates with complex proteins that are embedded in the cell membrane and how this process affects signal transmission inside the cell. I was glad that I had already taken biochemistry in the past year. I understood most of what was going on and I found the talk especially fascinating. After the seminar ended, we had a very good lunch break (the coconut macaroons were delicious) and then we decided to leave since it would take us a good amount of time to get back to PC. Thus we headed back, discussing all we had seen, taking in the beauty of Boston in the middle of summer and looking forward to doing something noteworthy in lab ourselves.


Hi – I’m Satyam Khanal from Kathmandu, Nepal, and I am a senior biochemistry major doing research this summer as... MORE