National Science Foundation – Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) Program
A summer research experience for undergraduates in chemistry and chemical engineering

"Practices and Perspectives in Nanoscience and Chemical Biology"

The Department of Chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University invites applications for participation in the Research Experience for Undergraduates for the summer of 2021. The National Science Foundation-Division of Chemistry funds this program. The "Practices and Perspectives in Nanoscience and Chemical Biology" program is designed to provide an experience that combines practical training in specific research techniques (practices) with activities designed to put the research into the context of larger goals of modern science and technology (perspectives) specifically in the field of nanoscience and chemical biology. The program will also provide career planning and management components through collaboration with local industry (Pfizer). The research projects involve experience in chemical synthesis, data analysis and/or computer modeling. Available research projects are briefly summarized below.

REU Rec Letter 2021
REU Application 2021

Research ProjectSkills AnticipatedTechniques to be Used
Direct-Gap Semiconductor (Si and Ge) Nanocrystals for High-Efficiency Solar CellsS, M, ANanomaterial synthesis, Absorption and emission spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, electron microscopy, and computational modeling
Nano-catalysis on Size and Shape-Controlled NanoparticlesS, M, AMaterials and small-molecule synthesis, TGA, UV/Vis, NMR, EPR, kinetics, and catalysis
Metal and Semiconductor Nanoparticles Supported on Graphene for Energy Conversion and Heterogeneous CatalysisS, M, ANanoparticle synthesis, Absorption and emission spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, electron microscopy, photocatalysis, and computational modeling
Surface Chemical Gradients and their Application in Separation ScienceS, AAnalytical chemistry, chromatography, UV-Vis spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, FTIR micro-spectroscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and materials fabrication
Laser-Assisted Synthesis of Bimetallic NanoparticlesS, M, ALaser synthesis of nanoparticles, UV-VIS spectroscopy and inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry, electron microscopy (SEM and TEM), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction
Covalent Organic Frameworks for Electrochemical Energy (battery) StorageS, M, AElectron microscopy (SEM and TEM), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction, surface area and porosimetry, FT-IR, and electrochemistry
New Organic Synthetic Methodology for the Stereo-controlled Synthesis of Bioactive Compounds (drugs)S, AOrganic synthesis, Schlenk line operations, reaction monitoring, product isolation and purification, compound characterization, and reaction troubleshooting, HPLC, reactIR, GCMS, UPLCMS, and NMR
New Strategies for Accessing Strained Carbocyclic Compounds via Radical IntermediatesS, AOrganic synthesis, organo and photoredox catalysis, chromatography, distillation, NMR, mass spectrometry, and cyclic voltammetry
Single Molecule Sensing of Triple-Negative Breast CancerS, ADNA nanotechnology, fluorescence microscopy, UV-VIS spectrophotometer, fluorometer, thermocycler, autoclaves, and bio-sensing. Students will also have exposure to data analysis software including MATLAB and Origin
Incorporation of Novel Amino Acids and Linkers into Macrocyclic Peptide LibrariesS, AProtein and peptide synthesis, fluorescence microscopy, UV-VIS spectrophotometer, biophysical separation, and purification
Investigation of Ferric Iron Intake by Escherichia coli using Particle Collision ElectrochemistryS, AElectro-analytical chemistry, fabrication, and testing of ultra-microelectrodes, and bacterial cell growth
Metallo(bio)chemistry and Human HealthS, ABio-inorganic chemistry, syntheses of organic ligands and coordination complexes, GC-MS, HPLC, UV/Vis, fluorescence spectroscopy, circular dichroism spectroscopy, cyclic voltammetry, PCR, gel electrophoresis, EPR, and NMR
Machine Learning Prediction of Intermolecular Interactions and their Application in Protein-Drug BindingM, AQuantum chemistry, computational modeling, coding, Python, and machine learning.
Highly Selective Fluorescent Chemical Sensing on Droplet MicrofluidicsS, ASupramolecular chemistry, analytical chemistry, clinical chemistry, confocal fluorescence microscopy, UV/Vis spectroscopy, microfabrication, pneumatic fluid control
Investigating Molecular Interactions of Disease Related Proteins S, M, A Preparative biochemistry, protein NMR, protein activity assays, UV/Vis spectrophotometry, chromatography, molecular dynamics simulations, biophysical chemistry
Key: S = chemical/material/molecular synthesis, M = computational modeling, A = data analysis

Program Duration and Support: This program is ten and one-half weeks long and will run from June 1 until August 6, 2021. During this time, participants will receive a stipend of $5000. In addition, the program will pay for lodging (pending approval from VCU administration because of COVID-19 restrictions) parking for one vehicle, health service fees, VCU ID fees, and travel to and from REU site. Students who are interested in daily commuting to REU site, because of health concerns, are encouraged to apply.

Eligibility: Students who apply to the program must have completed one year of general chemistry and one year of organic chemistry, for applicants in chemistry. Chemical engineering applicants must have completed one year of general chemistry, and one year of chemical engineering courses is desirable. To be eligible, students must be US citizens or Permanent Residents and must not have graduated prior to June 2021.

Application Submission: Completed applications, including unofficial transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and one-page personal statement are due no later than March 1, 2021. However, applications will be accepted until all internship positions are filled. Personal statements should identify the area of research (i.e. chemical biology or nanoscience and nanotechnology) the applicants are interested in or specific research projects (See the table above).  Please click on the links found at the top of this page to download the application and recommendation forms.

Please name your application and personal statement with your first and last name as follows: REU Application_John Doe and Personal Statement_John Doe.

Please email all application materials and recommendation letters to with the subject "NSF-REU program: Summer 2021"

Please send inquiries to:

Professor Indika U Arachchige,
Phone: (804)-828-6855, Fax: (804)-828-8599

Professor Suzanne M. Ruder,
Phone: (804)-828-7519, FAX: (804)-828-8599

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