Harnessing the summer sun

Chemistry & Biochemistry
August 31, 2015

The future is looking bright thanks to Kareha Agesa ’17, who has been working diligently to harness the immense power of the sun this summer. Well, it’s not exactly that simple, but Agesa has been collaborating with a team of fellow chemistry summer scholars and Professor Joe Reczek to make new molecular components for solar panel cells.

Her student colleagues in the lab this summer include Loryn Holokai ’16, Lovely Abocado ’16, David Allen ’16, Michelle Hill ’17, Jarrett Dillenburger ’17, and Maddie Van Winkle ’18, all of whom will be continuing their research with Reczek in the coming semester.

“They’re developing fundamentally new materials for organic electronic and photovoltaic applications,” Reczek explains. “Our general approach involves the design and synthesis of aromatic molecules that can be mixed together to form fascinating materials called donor-acceptor columnar liquid crystals, or DACLCs. Kareha’s project is to scale-up the synthesis of several molecules making up these promising DACLCs.”

Reczek and his students have developed and studied many new DACLCs over the past 7 years, and have identified some that have particularly promising properties for solar device applications. This has been a year-round project, and in many cases his students have inherited their paths of research from previous students.

Agesa, a Proctorville, Ohio native, gained some summer research experience last year in a chemistry lab at a large state university, and she sees a big difference in her experience this summer. “In Boise, my research advisor was very distant,” she explains. “Really I was working under a graduate student… he never really let me do things by myself.”

At Denison, “it’s a much more supportive environment,” says Agesa, and she prefers the collaborative approach to the lab work.

Agesa also spoke to the warmth and sunny disposition of her advisor, Joe Reczek. “He’s really open about talking about everything,” she said. “I didn’t know if chemistry was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, but he [told me], ‘That’s fine; you’re here for the experience.’”

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