Adelphi University Chemistry Professor Maria Nagan, Ph.D., has a proven formula for preparing students for advanced studies and the thriving job market in chemistry-related industries. Her approach involves pushing the boundaries of undergraduate research.
Dr. Nagan is one of 27 elite members of the Molecular Education and Research Consortium in Undergraduate computational chemistRY (MERCURY), which means that the undergraduates who work in her lab can take advantage of the latest technologies for their research.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded MERCURY a $225,000 grant for a new supercomputer. With this powerful machine at their fingertips, students can run large, research-based computer calculations. The consortium also offers students exclusive access to some of the nation’s industry leaders, laboratories and scientific journal editors.
In a typical semester, six to eight undergraduates conduct computational research in Dr. Nagan’s lab. Their projects involve looking at the biomolecular underpinnings of HIV and other diseases.
Dr. Nagan said that Adelphi’s commitment to student research puts it at the forefront of undergraduate chemistry education.
“One of the things that attracted me to Adelphi and makes our program stand out nationally is that we require research for all of our majors,” Dr. Nagan said. “The classroom is set material, but in research, we go at the student’s pace. It’s challenging and applies classroom knowledge to the lab, thereby teaching students how to learn. These skills—how to read an article, think and write about science, ask questions—are key to developing critical thinking.”
With a focus on computational chemistry, Dr. Nagan’s students are building on inherent areas of interest, from coding to biology, that ultimately result in what she describes as a deeper level of confidence and ownership that contribute to the wider community of scientific knowledge.
Next summer, Dr. Nagan will accompany select students to MERCURY’s annual conference, where they will have the opportunity to present their work and build professional networks that will further strengthen Adelphi’s status as a leading institution for undergraduate studies in computational chemistry.