Chemistry Students Named Collegiate Scholars
Feb. 10, 2014
BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— Illinois Wesleyan senior chemistry majors Colleen Leonard and Thomas
Sobyra have been selected as Collegiate Scholars by the Illinois Heartland Section
of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in recognition for their achievements in collaborative
research with faculty. The students will be honored at the section’s awards banquet
in Peoria on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
According to the Illinois Heartland ACS website, 240 chemists, chemical engineers
and educators belong to the local chapter. The non-profit organization, which aims
to build “a sustainable, high achievement organization of networked, caring professionals
following a shared vision,” offers the community a variety of opportunities in science
A resident of Glenview, Ill., Leonard has worked with Melinda Baur, assistant professor
of chemistry, in biochemistry research since the spring of her junior year.
Their work, “Development and Characterization of Multi-Functional Probes for Use with
Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy,” is available on the Digital Commons. “For the study, we used Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy (SECM) with electrode
probes that make simultaneous current and impedance measurements to analyze taste
buds,” said Leonard, who also holds a minor in Hispanic studies. Seniors Jiwon Lee
and Jennifer Schreiber also collaborated on the study.
“In the future, I hope to obtain a dual-degree as a doctor of medicine and master
of public health (MD-MPH),” she said. “I also hope to be a part of the movement to
help improve both the quality and access to healthcare in developing countries.”
A resident of Addison, Ill., Sobyra, who is also majoring in computer science, continues
to do research with James House, adjunct professor of chemistry. One study was titled
“Iodine as a Probe for Demonstrating Solvatochromism.” “We studied solvatochromism,
a property certain molecules possess which is illustrated by a shift in the position
of an ultraviolet-visible absorption band that depends on solvent polarity,” said
Sobyra. The results of the work, which Sara Costello ‘10 also participated in, have
been published in the journal The Chemical Educator.
“This semester, I finished working on developing a model process for demonstrating
the receding sphere rate law for solid state reactions,” said Sobyra. “The goal is
to study these salts and determine if they demonstrate ionic liquid crystal behavior
as is known to occur for similar compounds containing other metals.”
In the summer of 2013, he studied the oxygen reduction reaction and developed a system
to control the kinetics of the reaction under the direction of Andrew Gewirth, professor
of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During the summer
of 2012, Sobyra said that his internship with US Nano, LLC, a company based in South
Bend, Ind. that specializes in nanotechnology (the manipulation of matter at molecular
and atomic levels), helped him develop useful skills that he hopes to apply in his
laboratory and research career.
Currently applying to a number of graduate programs, Sobyra said his interests include
inorganic, materials and analytical chemistry. “In the future, I would like to be
a professor of chemistry at a university similar to Illinois Wesleyan, where I can
conduct research while also instructing students,” he said.
To learn more about the society, visit the ACS website. For additional information about the awards, contact Sherry Wallace, director
for news and media relations, at (309) 556-3792.
Contact: Tia Patsavas ’16 (309) 556-3181, email@example.com