• Kailyn Cohen

Kailyn Cohen

About our research

I’ve been fortunate to have different research experiences during my time at Ursinus College. I began research in my freshmen year with Dr. Brian Pfennig on an inorganic catalysis project. The goal was to produce methanol, a useful chemical feedstock and fuel, from the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide using an iron photocatalyst. In my sophomore year, I decided to join the bioinorganic lab of Dr. Amanda Reig, where I could study catalysis within the context of a biological model system. The research in Dr. Reig’s lab focuses on the structure-function relationships of bimetallic model proteins. By changing the amino acid sequence in a protein via site-directed mutagenesis, we can assess how the active-site can affect the reactivity. During the summer after my sophomore year, I participated in Ursinus’ Summer Fellows program, where I continued my research from the academic year. I studied the metal binding ability of dicopper proteins and designed a new mutant using the PyMOL computer program. After my junior year, I had the opportunity to participate in an NSF funded REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) at Texas A&M University, where I worked under Dr. David Powers. There I made efforts towards a waste-free, oxidation catalytic cycle using hypervalent iodine. For my senior Honors research project at Ursinus, I am exploring the electrochemistry of a series of systematically altered non-heme diiron model proteins via cyclic voltammetry. This has applications in designing artificial proteins for use in biofuel cell cathodes, a potentially cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution for generating cleaner energy.

My research experience

The coolest part about research is being able to learn something new everyday. Whether it is how to set something up, figure out a program, or run a reaction for the first time, I always come away knowing something more than I did. It’s a very rewarding experience to get that high of success when things work, but things don’t always work in research and that’s where perseverance and dedication come into play.

Research is a very hands-on experience at Ursinus College. Since there are no graduate students here, we are able to use the instruments and perform the experiments ourselves, which is pretty cool! My experience with research has been overwhelmingly positive. I enjoy learning from more experienced students and passing on what I know to my mentees. I’ve also had the opportunity to present my findings at different poster sessions and having interesting conversations with people who visit.

What was valuable about the research experience

I think research really enriched my experience at Ursinus. I can’t imagine going through my four years here without it. Just being a part of a research group made me curious about the research taking place beyond my direct experience, in other lab groups just down the hall. I was able to learn about chemistry from a different perspective that may not have been a main focus in the classroom. Attending and participating in research poster sessions allowed me to learn about the other research projects and I started attending the chemistry seminars that gave me a glimpse into the research being pursued at other institutions. It gave me a look into the research ecosystem and how that fit into the world at large. It made me feel that work in the lab really could have an impact on society and that really inspired me to pursue a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry.




Management Studies Minor


Semester Research, Chemistry Teaching Assistant, Chemistry, Beardwood Chemical Society, Lab Assistant

Life After Ursinus

I plan to attend graduate school and earn a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry. I believe a PhD can help me to develop as a chemist so that I can contribute to solutions that impact the world. My undergraduate research experiences exploring alternative energy, waste-free catalytic cycles, and diiron proteins for biofuel cell applications, all helped to solidify my interest in earning a PhD.