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Eight BCES Students Attend Pittcon

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Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Eight seniors from the Division of Biological, Chemical, and Environmental Sciences at Westminster College participated in the 2017 Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon 2017) in Chicago, IL in March.

With more than 14,000 in attendance and more than 1,000 technical sessions, Pittcon claims the distinction as “the world’s largest annual premier conference and exposition on laboratory science.”

Westminster student Michael McClain realized the many networking opportunities he had during the conference. “I talked to other students and discussed their research to see if anything sparked my interest. I talked to professors from universities from all over the country and discussed what they had to offer in terms of education and research opportunities. I also spoke with people from different countries to see what they are researching and what chemistry is like in their country compared to [the U.S.],” said McClain.

The participating students presented posters as part of Pittcon’s undergraduate student poster session:

Daniel Owoc, biology major, presented “Heavy Metal Analysis of Manure and Feed Samples from Local Farmland in Northwestern Pennsylvania” (mentored by Diana Ortiz, Erin Wilson).  He is the son of Roy and Diane Owoc and a graduate of Penn-Trafford High School.

Brittany Slupe, chemistry major, presented “Analysis of Manganese Oxides Recovered from Abandoned Mine Drainage Passive Treatment Sites” (mentored by Helen Boylan).  She is the daughter of Kristine L. Slupe and a graduate of Butler Area Senior High School.

Stephanie Homitz, chemistry major, presented “Analysis of Pet Food by LIBS, ICP-OES, and Chemometric Methods” (mentored by Helen Boylan).  She is the daughter of Jack and Susan Homitz and a graduate of New Brighton Area Senior High School.

Michael McClain, biochemistry major, presented “Protecting [alpha]-Crystallin and Inhibiting Protein Aggregation to Delay Disease” (mentored by Erin Wilson).  He is the son of Lethia Seitz and a graduate of Clarion Area Senior High School.

Mathilda Willoughby, biochemistry major, presented “Bacteria Adhesion Quantification Using Microscopy and ImageJ Analysis” (mentored by Erin Wilson).  She is the daughter of Ross and Mary Willoughby and a graduate of Fox Chapel Area High School.

Samantha Tower, chemistry major, presented “Green Synthesis of Coumarin-3-Carboxylic Acids and Complexation with Eu(III)” (mentored by Peter Smith).  She is the daughter of Christopher and Jane Tower and a graduate of Franklin Regional Senior High School.

Brendan Messner, chemistry major, presented “Separation of Samarium from Cobalt Using Water-Immiscible Deep Eutectic Solvents (DESs)” (mentored by Peter Smith).  He is the son of James and Kristen Messner and a graduate of Webster Schroeder High School.

Cameron Worthing, chemistry major, presented “Analysis of Commercially Available Solar Cells and Applications to Tiny Living” (mentored by Helen Boylan).  He is the son of David and Diana Worthing and a graduate of Bellwood-Antis High School.

In addition to presenting posters, the Westminster students served as student aides for the conference.  They had positions assisting with registration, the international visitors’ center, the Pittcon booth, and exposition services.  In exchange for their service, the conference covered the students’ registration and housing expenses.

Brendan Messner believes this experience was very positive, especially in regards to career his interests. "Being able to network with individuals in industry was very helpful," added Messner. "Also, receiving an interview was a great opportunity. The trip made me reevaluate what kind of career path I should choose, and has made me decide to broaden my search and apply for more jobs.”

Boylan is a member of the Pittcon organizing committee and this year served as chair of the employment bureau.  Five Westminster students obtained job interviews during the conference through this employment services. In the last four years, three Westminster graduates have secured technical positions through Pittcon’s employment bureau.

An alumni gathering provided an opportunity for students to connect with Dr. Ian “Mitch” Taylor, Dr. Ray Bair and Jasmine Grady. Dr. Ryan Plocinik and Brian Domanski ’08 made contact with the students during their poster session and at the exposition.

Travel expenses for the students presenting their research was supported, in part, by Westminster’s Drinko Center for Experiential Learning.

Contact Boylan at 724-946-6293 or email for additional information.