Students Collaborate to Develop New Class of Polymer Material
Chemistry students Mia Rodriguez ’24 and Tarek Ibrahim ’23 M.S. spent the summer collaborating with their faculty mentor and conducting important research that, they hope, will help address the global plastic-pollution problem.
August 5, 2022
By Mia Rodriguez ’24 and Tarek Ibrahim ’23 M.S.
Mia Rodriguez ’24 is a member of the University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, which enables students to take part in hands-on faculty mentored research. A chemistry major, she collaborated with Tarek Ibrahim ’23 M.S., a candidate in the University’s graduate program in chemistry, on her research. They worked under the mentorship of Hao Sun, Ph.D., an assistant professor of chemistry, in his Sun Research Lab at the University.
Rodriguez and Ibrahim reflected on their research experience and discuss the impact they hope it makes on addressing plastic pollution.
Mia Rodriguez ’24
My project is called “Developing Depolymerizable Polymer Materials to Mitigate Plastic Pollution.” We aim to develop a new class of polymer material that can readily depolymerize into small molecules under mild conditions. We expect this study to give rise to an unprecedented class of new polymer materials with the potential to replace the current commercial polymers and mitigate plastic pollution.
I hope to learn more about different polymers and how they each affect our ecosystem and contribute to plastic pollution around the globe. My goal is to learn what makes our new class of polymer material so different to commercial polymers and how our new polymers will help in lowering plastic pollution.
The SURF program has been an amazing opportunity. Thanks to SURF, I have been able to learn how to work in a professional lab setting and how to prepare research papers and presentations. This program has given me a huge opportunity to work on a project that interests me without having to worry too much about my schedule, since I was not taking any classes at the time.
Through the program, I have also been able to experience teamwork, and I was able to enhance my critical thinking skills that will help me in future projects and courses. Additionally, I had the pleasure of meeting some great people and even working with some of them.
Working with my mentor, Dr. Hao Sun, and my graduate student colleague, Tarek Ibrahim, has been great. We got to help each other with any problems we encountered while doing the project. We also took some time to get to know each other better, which made working together go smoothly. It is thanks to them that I had such a fun and positive experience throughout the SURF program.
Tarek Ibrahim ’23 M.S.
This summer, I worked in Dr. Hao Sun’s lab in the Chemistry Department. I am working toward a master’s degree in chemistry, and I was excited to be able to participate in bench research this summer along with Mia Rodriguez.
I love working in the lab, and having recently moved to the U.S. from Egypt, I was excited to get back into the academic setting after having worked in the pharmaceutical and fragrance industry for several years. Our research focused on designing recyclable polymers. Our long-term goal is to use these polymers to solve the global plastic-pollution problem by replacing fuel-based polymers with a recyclable variety.
To my knowledge, we carried out the first polymerization reaction at the University of New Haven, and our results are promising! I enjoyed collaborating with Mia and felt that we worked well as a team. We have different backgrounds that brought unique perspectives to the project and helped move it forward.
The summer went by too quickly, but I know there is a lot of exciting work that will continue into the next semester. I also appreciate all the guidance from Dr. Sun and his eagerness to teach us in the lab.
Mia Rodriguez ’24, a chemistry major, has been conducting research this summer as part of the University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program. Tarek Ibrahim ’23 M.S. is a candidate in the University’s graduate program in chemistry.