August 04, 2008

High school students to present chemistry research

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Teenage chemistry students from the area will present their work with faculty at Southern Illinois University Carbondale as they conclude a summer workshop sponsored by a national chemical group.

SIUC students and faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry played host this summer to Project SEED. The program is administered by the American Chemical Society and is aimed at steering economically disadvantaged students to learn more about chemistry. It offers a unique opportunity for talented local high school students, who spend the summer working full-time in the laboratory with SIUC faculty mentors.

The two students selected for this inaugural SEED project received a $2,500 fellowship for their eight-week program, which ends Aug. 8. Students who complete the first summer satisfactorily and have not entered college next summer can return for a second round of research and receive a $3,000 fellowship.

The SEED students will present their work at reception starting at 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, in Alumni Hall, room A0131, at the SIUC Engineering Building. The students, SIUC faculty mentors and the high school teachers who nominated them for the program all are scheduled to be on hand for the event.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the reception and research presentation for the SEED students. For more information, contact Gabriela C. Perez-Alvarado, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, at 618/453-8979 or or

Gabriela Perez-Alvarado, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry and coordinator of the SEED program, said the program selected two local students this year. They are:

• Benjamin S. Hale, a senior from Herrin High School. He is the son of Juliann and Kent Hale.

• Akinyemi Akintoye, a senior from Carbondale Community High School. He is the son of Folake and Caleb Akintoye.

Hale worked with SIUC’s Brian M. Lee, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry. The pair worked on a project called “Zinc finger structure from cytoplasmic polyadenylation element binding protein,” which is related to nerve cells and long-term memory.

The research gave Hale the opportunity to work in a structural biology laboratory and use molecular biology, biochemistry, protein chemistry and other techniques. Hale also collected and analyzed data and created a poster that describes the work.

Akintoye worked with SIUC’s Kara Huff-Hartz, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, on a project called “Environmental particulate matter production from, and indoor air quality implications of, household volatile organic compounds.” The pair generated and detected airborne particulate matter at the nano scale and used high-tech equipment to identify and measure it in an attempt to understand the effect on human health of such products as air fresheners and cleaners.

At the conclusion of their program, the students will send a report to ACS.

The SEED program is one of two summer outreach programs sponsored by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at SIUC. Two students from the second, internal program also will present posters at the Aug. 7 event. Those students are:

• Yuanxiufu Tony Cao, a senior at Carbondale Community High School. Perez-Alvarado was Cao’s mentor and the two worked on a project called “Structural studies of adaptor proteins in the cell-cell junctions.” Cao’s parents are Suzhen Li and Shimin Cao.

• Edikan Umana, a junior at Carbondale Community High School. Punit Kohli, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was Umana’s mentor and the two worked on a project called “Sensing using artificial cells.” Umana’s parents are Ukeme and Christina Umana.
Perez-Alvarado said the department would like to expand the SEED program and involve more local students. To qualify for the SEED program, students must have taken high school science courses, including at least a one-year introduction to chemistry and be recommended by a teacher. The program is designed for economically disadvantaged students but there are exceptions.

For more information on the SEED program at SIUC, go to