Call for Applications: 2023 Songer Research Award for Human Health

Undergraduate and graduate chemistry students are encouraged to apply for the 2023 Songer Research Award for Human Health. Matthew Songer, (Biological Sciences ’79) and Laura Songer (Biological Sciences ’80) established these awards to stimulate and encourage opportunities for original research by current Michigan Tech students.

Students may propose an innovative medically-oriented research project in any area of human health. The best projects will demonstrate the potential to have a broad impact on improving human life. This research will be pursued in consultation with faculty members within the College of Sciences and Arts. The Songers’ gift and matching funds from the College will support two awards for undergraduate research ($4,000) and two for graduate research ($6,000), for research conducted over the Summer of 2023 and/or the following academic year.

Learn more about who is eligible to apply, how to apply, and how the funds may be used.

Submit applications as a single PDF file to the Office of the College of Sciences and Arts by 4:00 p.m. Monday, April 24, 2023. Applications may be emailed to Any questions may be directed to David Hemmer (

Learning to Lead: Ryan Mackie

What makes competitive online gaming and research similar? Ryan Mackie would be the one to know. He’s a transfer student here at Michigan Tech and spends his time in two different worlds. He’s a varsity member of the Tech Esports team and a member of the Perrine lab.

Originally a music major at Middlesex College in New Jersey, one class would change the course of his life forever. What started as a simple chemistry credit became a passion that caused Ryan to switch majors to the chemistry department. Wanting to expand his horizons and look for a different perspective, he found Michigan Tech. It was in a climate and location that he’d never experienced before, and he wanted a strong chemistry department. Tech fit the bill perfectly.

Ryan Mackie during a Esports competition. He is seated, wearing headphones and a Michigan Tech Jersey.

Environmental Chemistry was the clear choice for Ryan, as he describes it as the “Middle ground between realistic and isolated chemistry. It focuses on the facts of the environment.” He got involved in undergraduate research opportunities after speaking with his professors. He found a special interest in the Perrine Lab, which looks at different types of corrosion on metallic elements and had openings for volunteers. Not only was he able to learn field skills, but his time in the lab offered him opportunities to work on leadership skills. Ryan mentions, “I’ve been learning when to let others lead and when to lead when I know I have the knowledge to help others.” He also has revealed that both participating on the Esports team and in the Perrine Lab were great foundations for communication.

Esports: It’s More Than “Just Video Games” 

Ryan is an active Esports team member, which has been another positive influence on his life. The team meets online and competes in both virtual and in-person competitions, together or as individuals in events. While the whole team is about 70 members, Ryan spends most of his time working with players who compete in Super Smash Bros, a mele-style game. Recruited within the Super Smash Bros club, he was able to receive a scholarship to compete as a member.

An image of Ryan and another Esports member, at a competition. They are facing away from the camera and at a screen.

Virtual sports have more in common with in-person sports than first meets the eye. Players on the Esports team work out each week to have both healthy minds and bodies and rely on teammates to grow as competitors. Having previously been involved in other sports in high school, he compared his time as a virtual competitor saying: “[They] use the same skills, but virtual sports use mental capacity instead.” Participating in team competitions requires strong communication and collaborative skills to succeed. But it’s not all work. From their time together, the Super Smash Bros team has become a close-knit bunch, often spending time together outside of practice.

“I’ve been learning when to let others lead and when to lead when I know I have the knowledge to help others.”

-Ryan Mackie

With an accelerated Master’s degree on the horizon, Ryan looks forward to putting his communication and research skills into real-life applications. He credits his unique time here at Tech to his ability to thrive.

Chemistry in Print

Chemistry Team Publishes in JACS Au

Congratulations to the team including Department of Chemistry Ph.D. students Shobhit Chaturvedi (lead author), Bathir Sathik, and Sodiq Waheed, and undergraduate students Jon Wildey (chemical engineering) and Cait Warner (biological sciences), and led by Christo Christov and Tatyana Karabencheva-Christova (Chem), whose article was published in JACS Au.

The article is titled “Can Second Coordination Sphere and Long-Range Interactions Modulate Hydrogen Atom Transfer in a Non-Heme Fe(II)-Dependent Histone Demethylase?” Christopher Schofield of the University of Oxford, U.K., is also a co-author of the article. This research is supported by NIH grant GM139118.

The study reveals how residues in the second coordination sphere and beyond drive and control the reactivity of the non-heme iron(iv)-oxo complex of the histone demethylase PHF8 to perform the key hydrogen atom abstraction reaction in its catalytic mechanism.

Chemistry Team Publishes in Chemistry – A European Journal

Ph.D. student Sodiq Waheed (chemistry) and Christo Christov (Chem) are participants in a collaborative experimental/computational study led by Nicolai Lehnert at the University of Michigan which was published in Chemistry – A European Journal.

The study, titled “YfeX – A New Platform for Carbene Transferase Development with High Intrinsic Reactivity,” focuses on a redesign of YfeX enzyme as a platform for carbene transferase reactions.

Victor Sosa Alfaro (lead author) and Hannah Palomino of the University of Michigan and Anja Knorrscheidt and Martin Weissenborn of the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, are co-authors of the manuscript.

NOBCChE Brings Chemistry to Baraga Youth

As part of its goal of outreach to the local community and promoting STEM — and chemistry in particular — to young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, the MTU student chapter of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) recently organized an outreach event for the high school chemistry class of Baraga Area Schools.

A hands-on explorative activity on paper chromatography was the focus of the outreach event, introducing students to the wide array of applications of chromatography as a separation technique. After introducing students to the concept of chromatography, students were able to see it come alive by separating various colored inks into their constituents. After this introductory activity, students used their chromatography skills to do some forensic analysis on an ink sample and pens from various “suspects” to see who was responsible for defacing a very expensive book from the school library. Finally, the volunteers engaged the students in a discussion to synthesize their observations and draw out the big scientific ideas.

The students were very focused, interactive, and excited about the activities. Some of them, when asked to comment on the activity, noted that it was engaging and insightful. One even said, “This is so cool and fun.”

NOBCChE hopes to continue to get out in the local schools and open up the wide world of chemistry to area students. See photos from the outreach event.

Michigan Tech graduate students in chemistry and chemical engineering — Sodiq Waheed, Kobina Ofori, Parya Siacheshm, and Monica Nyansa — organized this outreach event with NOBCCHE advisor Jeremy Brown (Chem). The event was funded by the NOBCChE K-12 Initiative.

This post was originally published in the Michigan Tech Chemical Engineering News blog on May 26, 2022.

On the (Virtual) Road

Two members of Dr. Kathryn Perrine’s research group, Mikhail Trought, and Chathura de Alwis, presented at the spring Materials Research Society (MRS) meeting April 17th-23rd.

Trought presented on redox chemistry of iron oxide single-crystal surfaces using ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (AP-XPS). de Alwis presented on probing the initial stages of iron surface corrosion using AP-XPS. Dr. Perrine presented on measuring the effects of ions on iron surface oxidation at the air/liquid/solid interface using polarization modulation infrared reflection-absorption spectroscopy (PM-IRRAS) and surface analysis, the research group’s current focus.

This work is supported by the NASA award number NNX15AJ20H, a Michigan Space Grant Consortium faculty seed grant, NSF MRI CHE 1725818, and the Michigan Tech 2019 Research Excellence Fund.

2021 Chemistry Awards

On April 21st, 2021, the Chemistry department gathered to congratulate those students who have excelled and accomplished so much during this past year.

Congratulations to the following and thank you everyone for your hard work!

Outstanding Student in First-Year Chemistry – Justin Andersen

Doc Berry Award – Steve Beuther

Leslie Leifer Award in Physical Chemistry – Henry Roell

Undergraduate Award in Organic Chemistry – Ellianna Sempek

Undergraduate Award in Inorganic Chemistry – Collette Sarver

Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry – Andrew Zampaloni

Undergraduate Award in Biochemistry – Henry Roell

Outstanding Senior Award – Collette Sarver

Outstanding Senior Research Award –  Ethan Burghardt

Departmental Scholar– Ethan Burghardt
Honorable Mentions: Steve Beuther, Henry Roell, and Garven Huntley

Rebecca Sandretto/Susan Stackhouse Summer Fellowship – Connor Hall

Outstanding Lower-Division Chemistry Teaching Assistant – Connor Hensley & Amanda Studinger
Honorable Mentions: Ethan Burghardt and Alexander Apostle

Outstanding Upper-Division Chemistry Teaching Assistant – Nick Newberry & Parya Siahcheshm

Ray E. and Eleanor K. Cross Endowed Graduate Fellowship in Chemistry – Priyanka Kadav

Robert and Kathleen Lane Outstanding Graduate Research Award – Dhananjani Eriyagama & Chathura Adambarage

Outstanding Graduate Student Summer Fellowship – Sodiq Waheed

Department of Chemistry Ambassador Awards – Komal Chillar, Erin Berglund, Gretchen Heins, and Abby Schwartz


Congratulations to Priyanka Dipak Kadav for winning third place in the oral presentations at the annual Graduate Research Colloquim for her presentation titled “Capture and Release (CaRe): A novel protein purification technique,’ on April 1st, 2021. Kadav was one of 31 oral presenters. The oral sessions were hosted live via Zoom. You can watch all the poster videos and recordings for the oral sessions here. Each presentation was scored by two judges from the same field of research.


Blake R. Peterson, Ph.D.

Our last speaker for our Spring Seminar Series is Dr. Blake R. Peterson from Ohio State University.

Dr. Peterson is the chair and a professor in the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy, John W. Wolfe Chair in Cancer Research, Co-Leader, OSUCCC Translational Therapeutics Program, and Co-Director, OSUCCC Medicinal Chemistry Shared Resource.

The seminar on Subcellular Targeting for Phenotypic Drug Discovery is at 3:00 pm this Friday, April 9th, via Zoom.

Phenotypic drug discovery represents an important approach for the identification of therapeutics because it does not require extensive knowledge of a specific drug target or mechanism of action. We are using this approach in conjunction with the synthesis of molecular probes that accumulate in specific organelles to discover novel anticancer agents and tool compounds. In this seminar, I will describe the use of this phenotypic discovery / subcellular targeting strategy to identify small molecule anticancer agents. The organelle that we are targeting with these probes is the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), which is defined by an extensive network of intracellular membranes and plays critical roles in the processing of secreted and transmembrane proteins. To deliver small molecules to membranes of this organelle, we synthesized novel fluorinated fluorophores derived from a fluorophore that we previously reported termed Pennsylvania Green. I will describe how these compounds can be used to inhibit a specific protein processing pathway controlled by the ER, and how we built on this molecular platform to create uniquely sensitive sensors of the reactive nitrogen species peroxynitrite, which contributes to immunosuppression in cancer. We further used an optimized peroxynitrite sensor in a phenotypic drug discovery campaign to identify small molecules capable of blocking the production of this reactive species in immune cells prevalent in the tumor microenvironment. This approach could lead to novel small molecule inhibitors and repurposing of existing drugs as therapeutics that help overcome immunosuppression in cancer.

Blake Peterson was raised in Reno, Nevada. After receiving a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Nevada Reno in 1990, he pursued a PhD in Chemistry with Prof. François Diederich at UCLA. During his graduate training, he moved with Prof. Diederich to Switzerland, where he conducted research for two years at the ETH-Zurich. In 1994, he accepted a postdoctoral position with Prof. Gregory Verdine in the Dept. of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University as a Damon Runyon / Walter Winchell Cancer Research Foundation Fellow. In 1998, he joined the faculty in the Dept. of Chemistry at Penn State University as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2004. During this time, he was named a research scholar of the American Cancer Society in 2003 and was the recipient of a Camille Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award in 2004. In 2008, he joined the faculty of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Kansas as Regents Distinguished Professor and was named an Eminent Scholar by the Kansas Biosciences Authority. In 2013, he was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In 2019, he joined the faculty of The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy as Professor and Chair of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy. He additionally holds appointments at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center as John W. Wolfe Chair in Cancer Research, Co-Leader of the Translational Therapeutics Program, and Co-Director of the Medicinal Chemistry Shared Resource. His current research interests involve the pursuit of new strategies for early-stage anticancer drug discovery.