Lake Superior State University
Lake Superior State University
Related Sites


Alum Success

Rachael graduated from Novi High School in Novi, Michigan. Rachael completed their senior research project by developing a method of detecting blastomyces dermatitidis in soil using PCR. This study lays the foundation for further studying blastomyces dermatitidis in soil samples from endemic regions in northern Michigan. Rachael is a member of the Alpha Chi Honor Society. Rachael recently was selected to go to MSU to train in qPCR techniques and assisted in their cow bacteroides project. Rachael plans to attend graduate school in the future to study biochemistry.

Rachael Cunningham
2010 Outstanding Graduate
Forensic Chemistry


LSSU chemistry students receive top awards in undergraduate student research
Senior Projects
Undergraduate Research

Lake Superior State University students have demonstrated once again that they can be formidable competitors among their peers when it comes to research. Recently, three LSSU chemistry students received top awards in the undergraduate part of a competition that examined student research in their field.

Anna Kerr, a senior from Harrison, poses with a poster that details research she performed as part of the requirements for her bachelor's degree.

Christopher Gravatt is exploring a method of scrubbing petroleum hydrocarbons from soil and groundwater. Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) associated with petroleum become trapped in soil due to their insoluble nature. These contaminants slowly leach out of soil to contaminate groundwater. One common method of removing these contaminates is by pumping out the groundwater, treating it at the surface, and then returning it via a spray application. This is a long, repetitive process. Gravatt's study proposes the synthesis and deployment of novel biodegradable organic surfactants that would isolate insoluble soil contaminants near the groundwater layer for rapid and safe removal. Gravatt is a senior in environmental chemistry from Escanaba, Mich.

"Our students received the top awards in the undergraduate competition," said Prof. Barbara Keller Ph.D., chair of the department of chemistry and environmental science. "They really did an outstanding job and seemed to surprise the competition."

Titles of a few of the senior research projects include:

  • Measurement of CI/LI Additive in Military Jet Fuel by Infrared Spectrometry, Christine Larkin
  • Determination and Comparison of Ca:Zn and Ca:Fe Ratios in Conversion Coatings using SEM-EDS, Nathan Morrill
  • Asymmetric Synthesis Using Chiral Auxiliaries and Titanium Enolates, Michael Overbeek
  • Determination of Silver in Seawater by Thin Film Hydride Generation ICP-MS, Jordan Burton
  • Towards the Synthesis of a Guanidine-like Organocatalyst, Rebecca Smrke

Several LSSU Chemistry & Environmental Science students presented their senior thesis research at regional research symposia.

In October, Allissa Haney (Senior, Forensic Chemistry), and Danielle Hamann (Junior, Chemistry) presented their results at the Midwestern Symposium on Undergraduate Research in Chemistry hosted by Michigan State University, in East Lansing. Allissa (L) and Danielle (R) are shown with their research posters.

Christopher Gravatt (Senior, Environmental Chemistry & Chemistry), Chelsea Theissen (Chemistry & Biology), Rebecca Schewe (Senior, Environmental Chemisty), Adam Point (Senior, Environmental Science) and Danielle Hamann (Junior, Chemistry) presented their research at the 23rd Annual Argonne Symposium, hosted by the US Dept of Energy at Argonne National Laboratory. In addition to the research presentation, attendees had an opportunity to tour lab facilities such as the Argonne Tandem Linear Accelerator System (ATLAS) and the Advanced Photon Source. Chris, Danielle, Brandon Yanni, Adam, Rebecca, and Chelsea are shown in the picture to the left, in front of the Advanced Photon Source.


"The equipment available to students in our chemistry department is unparalleled in the state of Michigan. Here, undergraduate students get to use the equipment…They don't have to compete with research assistants as they would in other universities."

--Barbara Keller
College of Natural, Mathematical and Health Sciences


Nicholas Smith Ph.D. (file photo) works in the areas of radioisotope recycling and medical isotope synthesis and isolation. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from LSSU ('04), then went on to graduate work in nuclear chemistry at University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where he received his Ph.D. He is a postdoctoral research fellow at Argonne, where much of the experimental work for the Manhattan Project occurred and is the site where the first nuclear reactor was built. The Argonne lab, along with Oak Ridge and Los Alamos labs, are where the bulk of nuclear research is performed in the U.S.


In the Field

Student researchers collecting sediment cores on the St. Marys River.

Alternative Management of Anaerobic Landfill Bioreactors for Improved Energy Potential

Josh Kuzimski

Converting municipal solid waste to usable energy is an emergent and growing method for modern waste management. Through microbial facilitation of methanogenesis, methane gas can be extracted from landfill bioreactors to yield a significant amount of usable energy. The hypothesis was that a sufficient addition of sodium acetate to a controlled bioreactor environment would promote larger growth of methanogenic microbes and subsequently promote a greater amount of methane relative to a control (Madigan et al, 2003). In order to simulate an anaerobic bioreactor environment, the method for the study took place in modular sections to cover the design, construction and operation of laboratory scale bioreactors. Upon completion of bioreactor engineering, the biological and chemical components were scrutinized to match ideal conditions of a landfill. Methanosarcina was the chosen genus of the methanogen family to seed the bioreactors, and a total elemental analysis of the waste source was analyzed to approximate methane yield. Over 557 hours, each bioreactor produced approximately 1.3 liters of biogas with less than 1% containing methane. Given analysis through gas chromatography, the bioreactors may have had stunted methane production do to presence of argon gas in the headspace and/or low C/N ratio of the waste. The presence of argon should have been replaced with nitrogen, and the waste source should have contained more carbon per nitrogen. The generation-3 design of constructed bioreactors was successful in containing all gasses, liquids, and solids internally, however did not produce enough methane biogas to accept or reject the hypothesis.

Apply Today!

Home » Chemistry > Senior Projects
Share this page with your friends: