Carnegie Mellon University
April 11, 2019

Two Chemistry Juniors Receive ISURF Awards to Fund Research Abroad

By Emily Payne

Jocelyn Duffy

Chemistry majors Jacob Kim and Travis Fu will pursue research at institutions across the world this summer thanks to the help of International Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (ISURF) awarded to them by the Carnegie Mellon University Undergraduate Research Office.

ISURFs are supported through the generosity of the Buncher Foundation and help fund students work by off-setting their travel and living costs during the summer months.

At Carnegie Mellon, Fu conducts polymer research in the lab of Krzysztof Matyjaszewski, the J.C. Warner University Professor of Natural Sciences. This summer, he will work with a collaborator of Matyjaszewski's, Michael Silverstein, a professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Technion University in Haifa, Israel. He’ll be studying the application of star polymers to high internal phase emulsion systems, which have vast applications in sustainable materials, drug delivery and synthetic tissue.

Kim will be traveling to Brunel University in London to work with Rakesh Kanda, a professor in the Institute of Environment, Health and Societies and College of Health and Life Sciences, on turning naphthenic acids into nontoxic products. Naphthenic acids are a wide group of chemically stable and toxic substances found in crude oil, and they are a particularly severe problem in oil sand processing, which uses a large amount of water that the naphthenic acids dissolve into.

Kanda has previously used TAML catalysts, developed by Carnegie Mellon Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry Terry Collins, to oxidize certain naphthenic acids into safe products. This summer, Kim will be testing how quickly Collins’ newest TAML catalysts degrade naphthenic acids and whether the products formed are nontoxic.

Upon returning, Fu and Kim will present their research at the annual Meeting of the Minds Undergraduate Research Symposium in the spring of 2020.