Student research shines at MASIS

The College of Science and Technology recently hosted the fifth—and largest yet—Mid-Atlantic Seaboard Inorganic Symposium (MASIS). The bi-annual, one-day symposium of high-impact student research attracted 110 students and professors from 13 different colleges and universities located between Southeastern Pennsylvania and Washington, DC, including Temple, the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University and Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore colleges. For the first time, in an effort to expand the symposium’s size, the event included undergraduate as well as graduate students.

“The symposium highlights cutting-edge research that students are conducting with their faculty advisors,” says Michael J. Zdilla, assistant professor of chemistry, who organized the conference with Ann Valentine, associate professor of chemistry. “As opposed to us faculty talking about our students’ research, it represents a great opportunity for them to network with students and faculty from other institutions and to get some real exposure for the excellent work they are doing by speaking to a large audience—which is also good practice for those going into academia.”

The symposium was sponsored by Jasco, Bruker, ThermoFisher, Strem Chemicals, Chemglass and Airgas.

A dozen student oral presentations and 60 student poster presentations outlined research covering all five American Chemical Society inorganic chemistry subdivisions: bioinorganic, coordination chemistry, organometallics, solid state & material, and nanoscience. 

One highlight was Swarthmore undergraduate Josh Turek-Herman’s oral presentation. He is investigating the ability of metal-containing compounds to turn double DNA strands into quadruple strands that shorten cell life—which potentially could kill cancer cells. Temple doctoral candidate Michael Gau, who works with Zdilla, also presented research on the creation of synthetic compounds that mimic the structure of the oxygen-generating photosynthesis process. “We’re the first to synthesize a tetra-manganese cluster with the potential to undergo three of the essential processes involved in the oxygen-evolving complex that is used in photosynthesis,” says Gau. 

The former high school teacher relished the opportunity to present before the largest audience of his life. “What I loved most about the experience was getting feedback from the audience regarding ideas they had and further discussing the research,” he says. “It was so gratifying.” 

With the oral presentations held during the day in one of Beury’s lecture halls and the evening poster section in the great court of Mitten Hall, the symposium heightened Temple University’s visibility.

“I had a number of faculty members from other schools say this was the best MASIS symposium yet,” says Zdilla. “They said it was ‘a class act’ and a ‘fantastic symposium’ and talked about how beautiful the campus was. Temple really wowed them.”

-Bruce Beans