Research Mentors

Meet some PhilaU research mentors that guide our chemistry and biochemisty students through real-world, high-caliber projects.  Covering a wide range of topics, these science mentors help our students navigate through fantastic projects that are regularly presented at scientific conferences. 

JEFFREY TF ASHLEY 

BS Chemistry, 1990, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada 

MS Chemistry, 1991, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada

MS Oceanography, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL

PhD Marine, Estuarine, and Environmental Science, 1998, University of Maryland, College Park, MD


Mentorship
:

Students have been measuring the level of cancer-causing chemicals in ‘third hand smoke’, the residue that remains on smokers’ skin and clothes long after smoking has ceased.   Students have also been evaluating the levels of mercury in baby foods fortified with fish oil and assessing the health risks of infant who ingest these products.


Why I Mentor
:

For me, it’s getting to see the “ah-ha” and the “uh-oh” moments that hands-on research offers that really excites me about the mentoring process.  Research is tough, time-consuming, and hardly ever works as you think it will. I love providing the platform and guidance for students to see the entire process of research, from thinking of a novel research project to the joys, when all does come together, of ‘getting published’ or presenting research off-campus at conferences.


Students’ Successes
:

I have mention over 40 students in research-based learning experiences over my time at Philadelphia University. All my students present their research at local scientific conferences. Many go on to present at state, national, or even international conferences.  Some of them have worked with me to write papers that have ultimately been published.   The students’ success lies in them becoming totally engaged in a research project that ultimately generates some new and usable knowledge. 


Personal Research
:

I am interesting in studying how man-made chemicals of health concern travel through urban aquatic ecosystems.  I’m also interested in evaluating the health concerns of industrial chemicals that reside in everyday consumer products and apparel.   




CRYSTAL A. SMITH 

BS Chemistry, 1979, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 

PhD Inorganic Chemistry, 1985, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN


Mentorship
:

My most recent research group developed procedures for reclaiming silver from mixed silver salt chemical wastes, and for regenerating and purifying silver nitrate.  My spring 2013 Inorganic students implemented the procedures, and were able to return about 35% of the silver nitrate consumed in the fall semester to the storeroom in sufficient purity for reuse. 

Why I Mentor:

My favorite part of guiding students’ research is being able to introduce them to new and interesting things. I enjoy teaching research methodology, and it’s always fun to teach airless lab techniques.  Most of all, I enjoy watching students develop into scientists.


Students’ Successes
:

My group presented three posters at the 2012 Sigma Xi Undergraduate Symposium and presented two posters at the 2013 Sigma Xi symposium at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.


Personal Research
:

I am interested in the synthesis and reactivity of zirconium and hafnium amide and alkoxide complexes.  I am also interested in developing new lab experiments for chemistry lab courses that improve learning and encourage sustainable chemistry. 



MATTHEW MILKEVITCH

PhD in Chemistry

Mentorship:

Currently, my mentees’ work involves the development of novel metallodrugs for cancer chemotherapy and the synthesis/development of agents to image cellular processes.  In addition, we are also interested in the development and synthesis of novel esters as potential anticancer agents.


Why I Mentor
:

My favorite part about guiding students in the laboratory is watching them learn and apply the various techniques that are taught to them.  In addition, I enjoy seeing them make projects their own and make suggestions on new areas of research.


Personal Research
:

I am interested in Organic Synthesis, Organometallic Chemistry, Coordination Chemistry Bioinorganic Chemistry, Anticancer Drug Development, Cancer Research, and Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy.



NINY RAO

BEng in Chemical Engineering, 1998, Cooper Union, New York, NY

PhD in Physical Chemistry/Computational Chemistry, 2002, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

Postdoc in Washington University in St. Louis, University of Tennessee, and University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

Mentorship:

I worked with a student on computational study of zirconium methyl amide. I am also working with students in my Physical Chemistry class to design POGIL style worksheets and activities for Chemistry I, II, and Organic Chemistry Labs.


Why I Mentor
:

I enjoy extended conversation with the students about how a research can take shape. I love their enthusiasm about exploring new ideas. The best part is watching them proudly present their research at regional and national conferences. 


Students’ Successes
:

The zirconium research was invited to compete in Penn State Regional Undergraduate Research Symposium 2012.


Personal Research
:

I am interested in Computational chemistry research such as dynamics studies of bioactive molecules, ab initio dynamic studies of small inorganic clusters, and research in learning gains via classroom activities in chemistry for both majors and non-majors.