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College of Arts and Sciences

Petersheim Travel Award Recipients in Chemistry Present Their Research

Sahil, Amanda, Executive Vice President Lillquist

Sahil and Amanda pictured with Deputy Provost, Chief Administrative Officer, and Executive Vice President Lilliquist at the Petersheim Academic Exposition.

During the annual Petersheim Academic Exposition, which shares and promotes student and faculty research, Seton Hall honors several students with Student Travel Awards. These Awards fund travel to national conferences where students present their research findings to experts and future colleagues in their fields. Such conferences are fundamental to the dissemination of research and to advancing collaborations and careers. They are opportunities to network, learn, and be inspired. Chemistry Professors Sergiu M. Gorun, Ph.D., and Joseph Badillo, Ph.D., mentored several winners of the award, students Amanda Kelleher, Sean Scally, and Sahil D’Souza.

Sean Scally pictured with Prof. Gorun.

Sean Scally pictured with Marius Pelmus, Ph.D., and Sergiu M Gorun, Ph.D., at the Petersheim Academic Exposition.

Sean Scally, joined Seton Hall University in August 2019, majoring in Chemistry with a minor in mathematics. In 2021, he joined Professor Gorun's research group and continued his studies as an M.S. student. Soon after, Sean presented his work on photocatalysis at the American Chemical Society Fall 2022 meeting and at the Petersheim Academic Exposition. More recently, Sean has been engaging in the study of asymmetric phthalocyanine catalysts in concert with Marius Pelmus, Ph.D. He is next scheduled to present his work at the International Conference of Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines (2024 ICPP-13) and the American Chemical Society meeting in Spring 2025. Following these presentations, Sean anticipates graduating with an M.S. in Chemistry and Biochemistry in May 2025. He plans to continue his education by pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration. His goal is to become an industrial scientist and manager. Gorun describes Sean as "a very solid junior scientist with the accomplishments of a Ph.D. candidate." Gorun adds, "It is a pleasure to have him in the lab, and I predict he will have a brilliant industrial career."

Sahil presenting.'

Sahil presenting at the William Patterson Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Sahil D’Souza, a sophomore with a double major in Biochemistry and Religious Studies in the joint Bachelor’s/M.D. Program, also earned a Student Travel Award.  For the past year, Sahil has worked alongside Amanda Kelleher, a junior biology major, on the project "Photoacid Generator Catalysis for Conjugate Addition Reactions" under the mentorship of Joseph Badillo, Ph.D. Their research explored the 1,4-conjugate addition of organic compounds called indoles with various alkyl vinyl ketones, a reaction that produces molecules important for the discovery of new pharmaceuticals. This research offered new methods to facilitate the reaction by using visible light and photoacid generators as catalysts. Photoacids are fascinating substances that become acidic with exposure to light. Badillo and Sahil explore the utilization of photoacid generators (PAGs) as catalysts in organic synthesis, where they produce potent acids upon absorbing light, therefore activating what is called a Michael addition process.

After reflecting upon his undergraduate career, Sahil says "choosing a Biochemistry major at Seton Hall has been one of my best decisions— the faculty is very interested in getting us students to participate early in research." Since joining Badillo’s lab he has felt "welcomed by everyone there, including Amanda. From seeing the team dynamic of those in the lab as well as the type of research being done, he realized he wanted to join the lab." Sahil has been fortunate to experience many great opportunities, such as becoming a New Jersey Space Grant Consortium (SHU-NJSGC) and a NASA fellow in the summer of 2023. During his sophomore year, Sahil presented at the Independent Colleges and University of New Jersey Undergraduate Symposium, the 2023-24 William Patterson Undergraduate Research Symposium, and now at the 2024 Petersheim Exposition. This impressive array of experiences well prepares him and his classmates to stand out in the job market and on graduate school applications. Sahil shared that "winning the Travel Award has been such a privilege— I am very grateful towards Badillo for instilling confidence within me to pursue research and be independent. Navigating the roadblocks with the guidance of Seton Hall’s faculty has been very rewarding, and I have grown so much from this experience."

Amanda at Undergraduate Symposium

Amanda presenting at the William Patterson Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Amanda likewise shares a deep appreciation for the mentorship of Seton Hall faculty during this experience. "None of this would have been possible," she says, "without the help of our mentor Joseph Badillo and a previous graduate student that I originally came onto this project with 2 years ago, Zena Salem, thank you!" Like Sahil, Amanda also had the privilege of presenting her research as a sophomore at the 2023-2024 William Patterson Undergraduate Research Symposium and, more recently, at the 2024 Petersheim Exposition, where she and Sahil won the Travel Award. Amanda describes her journey as "being a long yet rewarding one." Without Seton Hall University and their mentor Badillo, Amanda expressed that she "would not have the confidence today to continue her growth in becoming an independent researcher to further her contributions to organic chemistry and beyond."

Students interested in research opportunities like these, in any majors, are encouraged to reach out to their faculty members to inquire how they can get involved. Original, genuine undergraduate research mentorship is one standout feature of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Categories: Research, Science and Technology