Research Lab Profiles

The Department of Chemistry has 15 unique research labs that provide opportunities to undergraduate students.

Bennett Lab

Research in the Bennett lab uses a combination of organic synthesis, physical organic chemistry, and automation to address longstanding problems in carbohydrate chemistry. One area of interest has been to develop new stereoselective reactions for assembling carbohydrate monomers into larger oligosaccharides (glycosylation reactions). These studies have led to some of the most selective glycosylation reactions reported to date. Through a combination of physical organic and computational chemistry, we have been able to demonstrate that selectivity is the result of SN2-like processes. This is in contrast to the unselective SN1-like mechanism that is frequently attributed to these reactions. To expand the scope of this chemistry, we have developed automated continuous flow-based processes for the construction of monosaccharide precursors. Through these latter studies, we have been able to reduce the time of these multi-step syntheses from days to minutes. We are currently exploring the utility of these processes with other chemistry. We also use our chemistries to carry out a process called natural product glycodiversification. This process relies on changing the carbohydrates on a natural product in order to improve its therapeutic properties. Current targets include anti-cancer and antimicrobial compounds. A two-semester research commitment is required. Summer research is encouraged.

Prerequisites: Chem 51/52 is strongly encouraged and may be taken concurrently.  
Deadlines: Rolling deadline.  
Process: After reviewing applications, Prof. Bennett will meet with potential candidates to discuss their interests.  
Positions available: 0 (new positions are anticipated beginning in Fall 2023, at the earliest).

Learn more about the Bennett Lab

Caspari Lab

In order to understand how and why successful teaching and learning of chemistry at the university level works, the Caspari group focuses on analyzing students', teaching assistants' (TA), learning assistants' (LA), and instructors' reasoning, interactions, and culture. The group collects video data of classroom practices and conducts qualitative research interviews with instructors, TAs, LAs, and students to better understand how certain interactions and ways of reasoning lead to student sense making and learning. While zooming in and investigating how students connect aspects of chemistry, the group also zooms out and investigates classroom culture and how individual interactions and personal experiences integrate into larger systems of teaching and learning. The group uses this fundamental research as a theoretical basis for implementing teaching innovations and designing training opportunities to promote supportive learning environments for students that value and encourage their unique ways of being, knowing and doing.

Prerequisites:  None.  
Deadlines:  Nov. 15th for positions beginning in January; April 15th for positions beginning in September.  
Process: After application review, Prof. Caspari and Caspari lab members will interview potential candidates to learn more about their interests.
Positions available: 1

Clark Lab

Research in the Clark Group seeks to develop new materials and analytical methods to identify, quantify, and understand the function of RNA modifications in biological systems. Our long-term goals are to advance sample preparation, chromatographic separation, and mass spectrometry approaches to facilitate the characterization of nucleic acid modifications in the central nervous system, single cells, and subcellular structures. In combination with a powerful neurobiological model, the marine mollusk Aplysia californica, we leverage techniques in analytical chemistry, molecular biology, and neuroscience to investigate mechanisms of post-transcriptional regulation in normal and abnormal function of the central nervous system. Undergraduates in the laboratory contribute substantially to several research projects including liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry measurements of RNA modifications, design and synthesis of ionic liquid solvents for biomolecule extraction, and the development of new analytical workflows for selective profiling of modified RNAs in single cells. Undergraduates in the Clark Group will develop scientific communication skills and proficiency in lab techniques that are highly desired in biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, government labs, academic research labs, and beyond.

Prerequisites:  An enthusiasm for measuring and quantifying the fundamental (and unusual!) building blocks of the natural world in biological systems down to the individual unit of life: the single cell. Preferred: student is enrolled or plans to enroll in Chem 42/43 or Chem 171.  
Deadlines: The following application due dates will be observed prior to the Fall, Spring, and Summer terms, respectively: August 30th (Fall deadline); December 1st (Spring deadline); and April 24th (Summer deadline). 
Process: After application review, top candidates will be selected based on interests and fit within the group to meet with the PI and other members of the research group to further discuss research interests. The applicant will be informed of a decision after all meetings are complete.
Positions available: 0

Learn more about the Clark Lab

Davis Lab

Research in the Davis lab focuses on sustainability in inorganic materials. Example topic areas include: making new molecules and materials that absorb or emit light for solar cells and LEDs; producing new volatile molecules that can deposit metals or superconductors for improved microelectronics; and developing chemistry that can enable decarbonization of hard-to-abate industrial sectors, such as ironmaking and cement production.

Prerequisites:  None.  
Deadlines:  Dec. 5th for positions beginning in January; April 3rd for positions beginning in May; July 31st for positions beginning in September. 
Process: After application review, Prof. Davis and Davis lab members will interview potential candidates to learn more about their interests and fit for available research positions.
Positions available: 1

Learn more about the Davis Lab

Kounaves Lab

Our research is aimed at understanding how biologically-produced molecules (biomarkers) on Mars are altered when exposed to UV radiation in the presence of oxidants and/or their intermediate products. To help answer this question we are investigating the “fragmentation” patterns of such altered biogenic compounds which could then be used to identify the original biomarker and thus provide evidence for life on Mars. Our group has also been collaborating with NASA to develop in-situ analytical instrumentation designed to unambiguously detect microbial life and determine the habitability of planetary environments that may be present at the surface and subsurface of Mars, and the oceans of Saturn's moon Enceladus. Students can expect to gain experience with a variety of analytical techniques and instruments such as GCMS, HPLC/LCMS, IC, ICP, NMR, and electroanalysis. Learn more about current research.

Prerequisites:  Quantitative Analysis (Chem 42), and preferably junior/senior class standing. A two-semester commitment is required. Summer research positions are also available.  
Deadlines: Rolling deadline.  
Process: After application review, Prof. Kounaves will meet with potential candidates to learn more about their interests.
Positions available: 0

Learn more about the Kounaves Lab

Kritzer Lab

The Kritzer lab uses new molecules to solve vital chemical and biomedical problems.  We discover new molecules and apply them by combining approaches from organic synthesis, biochemistry, biophysics, computational design, genetics, and cell biology -- and by inventing new approaches as we go along!  In one series of projects, we design innovative molecules to block disease-associated proteins, often in ways traditional "drug-like" molecules cannot.  In another project, we are also exploring new chemistries that increase the potency and usefulness of bioactive peptides.  Additional projects focus on inventing new methods for measuring cell penetration, which is the most difficult roadblock for many emerging therapeutics including peptide therapeutics, protein therapeutics, RNA therapeutics, and gene editing.

Prerequisites:  None.  
Deadlines: Nov. 15th for positions beginning in January; April 15th for positions beginning in May.    
Process: After application review, Prof. Kritzer and Kritzer lab members will interview potential candidates to learn more about their interests.
Positions available: 0

Learn more about the Kritzer Lab

Kumar Lab

Our research program has broad, expansive interests at the intersection of chemistry, biology, and medicine.  Current problems of interest to the laboratory range from understanding the origin of life to the design of therapeutics for a wide range of indications.  Undergraduate (UG) students in the group work closely with Prof. Kumar, senior UG and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and staff scientists. UG researchers are expected to spend ~15 hrs/week in the lab and should have contiguous blocks of time available (5+ hrs twice a week).  Our program uses tools of molecular design; organic synthesis including peptides; pharmacology; enzymology; bacterial and mammalian cell culture/biology; biophysical and bioanalytical methods, and materials science.  UG researchers should commit to at least two semesters of research for it to be a meaningful experience; most join in their sophomore year and stay for the duration of their time at Tufts.  

Prerequisites:  Chem 51 (waived if you have computational interests only).    
Deadlines: Rolling deadline.    
Process: Apply as early as you can, even as you are enrolled in Chem 51. After application review, Prof. Kumar and members of the lab will meet with you to discuss mutual research interests. We welcome everyone including pre-health science students!
Positions available: Up to 2

Learn more about the Kumar Lab

Lin Lab

The YSL lab uses computational chemistry to study and predict the structures and functions of biomolecules. Current projects include using molecular dynamics simulation and machine learning to predict structures and other properties of peptides, designing cyclic peptides that can target specific protein surfaces, designing cyclic peptides with high membrane permeability and other desired properties, and developing automated analysis to process simulation data.

Prerequisites:  No formal courses are required, but students should be interested in chemistry, physics, biology, and computer science. Additionally, students must attend our group meetings at least three times before applying to the YSL Lab (please email Prof. Lin to find out the time and location).
Deadlines: February 15th for positions beginning in June (summer) or September (fall semester); October 15th for positions beginning in January (spring semester).   
Process: After application review, Prof. Lin and the YSL Lab members will interview potential candidates to learn more about their interests.
Positions available: Up to 1

Learn more about the Lin Lab

 

Mace Lab

Research in the Mace lab targets many aspects of measurement science: process improvement, assay development, device design and prototyping, usability and user experience, and testing using real sample matrices. With a focus on global health and diagnostics, members of the Mace lab are introduced to projects spanning infectious disease diagnostics, patient-centric microsampling, and laboratory medicine. While the primary method we use to approach challenges is paper-based microfluidics, we use our creativity, multidisciplinary backgrounds, and team of industry, clinical, and international collaborators to get the job done. Undergraduate researchers will work closely with a senior member of the lab and are expected to coordinate their schedules with their mentor. Students are expected to work roughly 10–15 hours per week.

Prerequisites: None.
Deadlines: Nov. 15th for positions beginning in January; April 15th for positions beginning in September. Paid summer opportunities are generally available only to those students who already have experience in the group.
Process: After application review, Prof. Mace and members of the Mace Lab will interview potential candidates to learn more about their interests and fit for available projects.
Positions available: 0 (new positions are anticipated beginning in Fall 2023).

Learn more about the Mace Lab

Scheck Lab

Research in the Scheck lab uses chemistry to learn more about biological systems. We focus on developing new chemical methods that can be used to study protein post-translational modifications, especially those that have been difficult to study using traditional tools. Undergraduate students in my group work closely with me, along with my graduate students and/or post-doctoral researchers. Undergraduate researchers are expected to work roughly 10-15 hours per week, and must be available to come into lab on at least two consecutive days per week. Projects in the lab vary, but in general students can expect to gain experience in several of the following areas: chemical synthesis, peptide synthesis, protein expression and purification, bacterial and mammalian cell culture, protein analysis methods, on-bead peptide libraries, and mass spectrometry and proteomic analysis.

Prerequisites: Chem 51 (completed) and Chem 171 (completed or concurrent with the first semester of research).
Deadlines: Nov. 15th for positions beginning in January; April 15th for positions beginning in September.
Process: After application review, Prof. Scheck and her lab members will interview potential candidates to learn more about their interests.
Positions available: 1  

Learn more about the Scheck Lab

Shultz Lab

Research in the Shultz lab focuses on the development of catalysts for various energy applications. The fundamental catalyst is ultranano titania: (TiO2)<200. With these few formula units, the particles self assemble into well-defined configurations. Our clean water projects focus on using ultranano titania catalysts to capture sunlight to drive the oxidation of common pollutants, like pharmaceuticals and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS). The energy project has three aims: (i) to reduce CO2 in aqueous solution, (ii) to oxidize CO in a hydrogen fuel stream at low T, and (iii) to use TiO2 and our silica scaffold to reduce recharge time in batteries to minutes. Undergraduates in the Shultz lab are expected to commit a minimum of 3-5 hours/week if not registered for research, or a minimum of 15 hours/week when registered for research.

Prerequisites: None.
Two Deadlines: Juniors should apply by September 15th; pre-Juniors by October 15th.
Process: After application review, some applicants will be invited to visit the lab. – those selected to join the lab will be notified within 3 weeks.
Positions available: Up to 3

Learn more about the Shultz Lab

Sykes Lab

The Sykes lab uses state of the art scanning probes and surface science instrumentation to study technologically important systems. For example, scanning tunneling microscopy enables visualization of the geometric and electronic properties of catalytically relevant metal alloy surfaces at the nanoscale. Using temperature programmed reaction studies of well-defined model catalyst surfaces, structure-property-activity relationships are drawn. Of particular interest is the addition of individual atoms of a reactive metal to a relatively inert host. In this way reactivity can be tuned, and provided the energetic landscapes are understood, novel bifunctional catalytic systems can be designed with unique properties that include low temperature activation and highly selective chemistry. Each of the three microscopes in the Sykes lab cost >$500,000 and require > 1 year of training to operate so a lot of the projects that UGs are involved with are done with a senior graduate student who operates the instrument.

Prerequisites: Chem 31 or 32
Deadlines:  Nov. 15th for positions beginning in January; April 15th for positions beginning in May.  
Process: After application review, Prof. Sykes will meet with potential candidates to learn more about their interests.
Positions available: 1

Learn more about the Sykes Lab

Thomas Lab

Research in the Thomas lab focuses on new organic materials that respond to light. Undergraduate researchers in our lab are paired with an experienced graduate student or postdoctoral researcher and given a project of their own. The selection of project is based on a combination of research interest of the student and project availability in the lab. Students work in the lab, on average, 15-20 hours per week during the semester. Students will learn techniques of organic synthesis and purification, characterization, and various techniques of physical organic chemistry, including optical spectroscopy or kinetics or crystallography or DFT calculations. Students are asked to commit to a minimum of two semesters of research for academic credit (beginning with Chem 81).

Prerequisites: Students should have completed one semester of organic chemistry and lab (Chem 51/53), and either have completed a second semester of organic chemistry or currently be enrolled (Chem 52 or 54).
Process: After application review, members of the Thomas lab will meet with potential candidates to learn more about their interests.
Deadlines: December 1st for positions beginning in Spring. May 1st for positions beginning in Fall.
Positions available: up to 2

Learn more about the Thomas Lab

Utz Lab

The Utz Group studies the energetics and mechanism of reactions on catalytically active metal surfaces. We use a combination of ultrahigh vacuum techniques to ensure controlled conditions for the reactions we study, surface-sensitive analytical instrumentation, including Auger electron spectroscopy, Infrared reflection-absorption spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, and infrared laser excitation to identify and quantify reaction probability and surface reaction products, and molecular beams and infrared laser excitation to control the energy of reactant molecules. Undergraduate researchers in the group work as part of a team with other undergraduate and graduate students in the lab. Work generally involves a mixture of specific projects the student can work on more independently, and work performed in collaboration with other group members on our ultrahigh vacuum surface scattering chambers. Day-to-day activities in the lab touch on a wide range of laboratory skills that include optical system design and optimization, design and validation of electronic data acquisition hardware, use and maintenance of ultrahigh vacuum systems, modifications to data acquisition software, the mechanical design and fabrication of experimental components, and, of course, data acquisition and analysis. Specific projects depend on student interest and experimental need.

Prerequisites: None.
Deadlines: To best support students who may be considering enrolling in Chem 81, decisions about accepting students will be made 1-2 weeks prior to course registration for fall (April 15th) and spring (Nov 7th) semesters. Students interested in summer research opportunities should apply prior to March 15th. All students who express interest by these deadlines will be considered for available positions. If positions are still open after a deadline passes, interested students may still be considered before the next semester (or summer session), so please feel free to email Prof. Utz to inquire.
Process: Prior to submitting the application, interested undergraduate students at all levels are encouraged to reach out to Prof. Utz by email to inquire about research opportunities to discuss how their background, interests, and skills could contribute to our projects. After application review, Prof. Utz and group members will meet with and interview interested students to learn more about their interests.
Positions available: 2

Learn more about the Utz Lab

Zhang Lab

Our group aims to discover new transition metal complexes for sustainable applications. Specific projects include 1) the exploration of earth-abundant titanium photochemistry, 2) the advancement of metal-carbon cooperativity for organic catalysis and small molecule activation, and 3) the study of synthetic iron carbide chemistry for modeling nitrogenase active sites and Fischer-Tropsch catalysts. Our research program offers an opportunity for students to develop their skills in a wide variety of modern synthetic techniques, spectroscopic methods, and quantum mechanical calculations in inorganic chemistry.

Prerequisites: None.  
Deadlines: Nov. 15th for positions beginning in January; April 3rd for positions beginning in May; July 31st for positions beginning in September.
Process: After application review, Prof. Zhang and Zhang lab members will interview potential candidates to learn more about their interests.
Positions available: 2

Learn more about the Zhang Lab