Jeonghee Kang, Ph.D., associate professor of physical sciences and chemistry at St. Joseph’s University, New York’s Brooklyn Campus, encourages her students to assist her with professional research to help them increase their career prospects and learn to solve real-world problems.
Senior chemistry major Ketevan Basilashvili is the latest student to join Dr. Kang on her research endeavors. In Fall 2021, with the guidance of Dr. Kang, Basilashvili researched synthesis in new Flavylium compounds with a phenyl group attachment using aldol condensation. She used a new procedure, which aids in her overall research, since it is less harsh than previous synthesis procedures. Dr. Kang took the research a step further and studied Anthocyanidins — the Flavylium compounds Basilashvili synthesized.
Dr. Kang wanted to encourage her undergraduates to publish their research work in a professional journal, so she spent a few years making a research group in which students continuously conducted quality science projects for publication. It started with students extracting natural dye anthocyanins from colored fruits including blackberry, black grape, strawberry and cranberry. The chemistry research endeavors only grew from there.
“I witnessed how much our students loved the project and were amazed by their observations and experience,” Dr. Kang said. “They were especially fascinated by how the materials they eat daily have so much potential to positively impact the world and how far lessons from the classroom can take them. That kind of feeling is a priceless reward for an educator.”
Presenting Chemistry Research
Basilashvili, an Academic Center for English Language Studies student, presented her research twice this spring: at the St. Joseph’s Undergraduate Research Symposium on May 4 and during the Undergraduate Research Symposium at the American Chemical Society-New York Section a few days later.
Basilashvili said she developed an interest in organic chemistry during her sophomore year when she took CHE 250 and CHE 251 with Dr. Kang.
“I fell in love with the class, and the way she taught it,” Basilashvili said. “Out of all my chemistry classes, organic came the most naturally to me.”
She knew by senior year that she would want to focus on organic chemistry for her capstone research project, so she asked Dr. Kang to be her adviser.
“Working with Dr. Kang was amazing,” Basilashvili said. “She guided me throughout the whole research in every way she could. She let me figure things on my own, so I would have a chance to learn, but if I got stuck and just needed confirmation, she was always available. From the start to the finish, she made it possible for me to achieve success through the research project.”
Basilashvili credits her research experience and her internship carrying out environmental monitoring at Miltenyi Biotec, a German biotech company, with preparing her to land a job after graduation. She will work as a control analyst at the San Jose, California, location.
“I enjoyed watching her grow as a chemistry major over the past year,” Dr. Kang said. “I am excited to see what she will achieve after leaving St. Joseph’s.”