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Chrysa Malosh: Chemistry

Duryea, PA
Major: Chemistry
Minor: Mathematics

IUP's chemistry lab, despite the beakers and Bunsen burners, has a "lived-in look" about it. Students tape up favorite posters and drawings, or scatter stuffed animals or mugs along various shelves. When Chrysa Malosh's parents came on their first visit, they took one look at her favorite cartoon characters among the other lab memorabilia and got worried.

They knew right away we lived in our lab. Well, I do go out for meals. Other than that, I like to work from about eight in the morning until midnight. Dr. Woods, my professor, compliments me on my drive, my hard work and my willingness to get things, done but I always say, working with someone like him, it just seems right. The funny thing is, I didn't really think much about my work until Dr. Woods started explaining it to my parents. Then, while he was talking, it hit me that I had done something in my experiments that no one else in the world had ever done before and he made it clear that it was because of my perseverance, imagination, and hard work that I had accomplished it. That was amazing to me. Then at several of the presentations, where I was able to have some very insightful technical discussions about my work and other topics related to it, I realized just how much I had learned at IUP, and just what I was capable of, while 'only being' a junior in college.

And what had Chrysa Malosh done that no one – anywhere – had ever successfully done before?

I can't tell you specifically, because we haven't published the work yet, but it's in the area of Organic Synthetic Methodology, specifically, Halogenation. All I can say now is that it involves a basic step in the production of many synthetic organic compounds. Usually these processes require the use of hazardous materials – halogens such as iodine, chlorine, bromine – materials that can burn lungs, or they're carcinogenic as well as costly and difficult to dispose of without damaging the environment. And the processes usually take 24 hours before you get your finished product. In my experiments, I found out how to eliminate these solvents entirely – and get your final product in about three minutes. And, up to now, no one's been able to do this. That's an amazing thing about chemistry how many things haven't been discovered or solved yet.

Part of the significance of Chrysa's discovery, beyond her own persistence and intelligence, is that in most universities, undergraduates don't really have the opportunity to do any serious, in-depth research.

Typically they get to wash glassware and attend some extra seminars. Not only that -- the professors here at IUP truly care about their students. And when I told Dr. Woods this project was really his, originally, he said 'I came up with idea but you made it work.' So, when the experiment is published, my name goes on it first. Now, that sort of thing just doesn't happen in most undergrad programs. The faculty members at IUP are here to teach, not just to further their own careers. I've taken courses at three different types of universities: a large public-research-based university, a smaller private, state-related university and IUP. IUP is the only one where the professors were more interested in what you were doing than in what they were doing. There are profs here who spend fifty hours a week preparing for a lecture that they teach for three, just to make sure that the information they teach is up to date and that the students will get as much as possible out of the course. You can stop in and chat with any of the professors when you're walking down the hall and happen to notice that they are in. To me, it feels like home. They are willing to help you when you have questions that are related to their area of specialty. If you put forth a real effort to succeed in your field, they will help make sure that effort is not wasted and that you receive the maximum benefits of your work.

Although she didn't know all this going in, Chrysa Malosh chose IUP after one visit to the campus. It's a choice she's been happy about ever since.

I had already been to several other universities and I was impressed by the people on the campus at IUP. They were genuinely interested in my questions and were very outgoing. I also fell in love with the campus. It was October and the leaves had begun to change and I just had a sense that I belonged here. I could picture myself in the Oak Grove studying under a tree of riding my bike through campus. I also liked the fact that class sizes would be small and there would be a lot of individual attention available. And I liked what the Honors College offered. It was unlike the other programs I looked at, in that it was not just packaged as taking the "honor section" of existing courses, nor was it just some glorified "honor role" type of program. The Core Course was unique. It reminded me of the schools you read about run by Plato or Socrates, where thinking and discussion is at the forefront. Looking back, as a science major, I value the fact that I had such a good portion of my first two years of academics focus on building my intellectual, reasoning, and communication skills, so that when I eventually was immersed in my field of study I could apply what I had learned in Core to present myself and my ideas in a better light. I feel more confident in situations where I am surrounded by strangers who have more experience in an area than I do. I can speak on a level with "adults" and feel comfortable. Also I have learned to recognize that although you may not agree with what someone is saying, you can still take something from it. The whole experience teaches you how to handle yourself in situations where you have to voice and back up your opinions, even where yours may be in the minority. Another important benefit the Honors College offers is the opportunity to be introduced to 'culture.' Because of the Fine Arts events that you are required to attend, as well as the non-Western focus of some of the classes, you gain a growing understanding and appreciation for our own culture and for others.

The Honors College also helped Chrysa Malosh in an unexpected way – one that made her research breakthrough, and an exciting new project, possible.

It's because the Honors College, thanks to our Director, Dr. Goebel, found a way to fund my research, that I was able to work through the summer. And, the Assistant Director, Rick Kutz had a lot to do with this early on, when he (half) kiddingly advised me to 'take Dr. John Woods – or I'll kick you in the head!' I'd heard of Dr. Woods, that he was scary, he wears black, he's hard, demanding – but Rick said if I really wanted to understand chemistry and come out with more than grades, I'd take him. So I did. And he was hard. And I was scared, and involved with the soccer team and somehow, not surprisingly, I guess, ended up with a 'c.' I went to see Dr. Woods, and he told me if came back over break, and worked with him, he'd catch me up to speed. So I took in the spring, got a 'b,' (which is as good as an 'a' with him), and then, in the summer, when the funding came, Dr. Woods let me take a crack at a project a grad student tried to do (sure!) that hadn't worked -- but a side reaction looked promising. This is the work we're publishing and that I've presented in conference – an intercollegiate chemistry conference where I was representing one of few small schools, where most of the other students were from big research and Ivy League schools. And because of this work I really got hooked on organics – and what we call 'green' (or environmentally 'friendly') chemistry - how I understood it better by doing research. And it's why Dr. Woods is the biggest influence on my career so far.

And where is that career heading for Chrysa Malosh?

For the present, I'm a student assistant on a grant for a project being developed to train individuals on how to handle hazardous materials. Dr. Woods and Dr. Robert Eddy, a professor in Chemistry Education, put me forward for this and it may, in fact, lead to a job. For a lot of grads, industry is a very popular option due to the large salaries and benefits available for students with chemistry degrees – especially advanced degrees. There are not many majors any more and the demand is high. Pharmaceuticals, plastics, textiles, fuel, environmental firms…all kinds of things. For me, long range, I would like to be a professor at a small to medium sized university, where it would be possible to teach undergraduate and graduate students alike, as well as conduct a productive research group. As I said, I am currently interested in Green Chemistry, which is an area of chemistry concerned with lowering the detrimental impact of chemistry on the environment.

And, no matter where she goes, Chrysa will carry long-lasting memories of the Honors College, IUP and that very "lived-in" laboratory.

I'll miss the family I have acquired while at IUP. The past four years have not been just about increasing my academic knowledge, but about becoming my own person and gaining a true sense of identity. That all began with my first two years here in the Honors College. I was encouraged and nurtured by the friends I had made, particularly within the Honors College, and I was advised by people who I trusted and who I knew had my best interests at heart, so whenever a decision or situation arose, I knew that I had a support system there to help me if I needed it. As I moved more into the area of my major I became involved within the chemistry department where I felt that I was not just a student, but one of their own, where professors took the time to work with me on an individual basis, offering guidance and advice. And, as one of my mentors in the department once said to me: No one ever 'leaves' – this is your home and you are always welcome.

Chrysa’s Accomplishments

Academic Distinction/Awards

  • Provost Scholar
  • Dean’s List (four years)
  • Outstanding Chemistry Student (freshman year)
  • Scholar Athlete Award (freshman year)
  • SSHE (State System of Higher Education)
  • Women’s Undergraduate Leadership Award
  • Dr. Horvat Scholarship Recipient
  • Edward R. Brown Memorial Scholarship (IUP Chemistry Department)
  • 2nd Place Organic Chemistry Division – 64th Annual Intercollegiate Student Chemist’ Convention
  • Sigma Xi Distinguished Undergraduate Research Exchange Programs: University of Central Florida, Orlando – National Student Exchange Program in Forensic Science

Conferences/Presentations

  • National Collegiate Honors Conference, Orlando, 1999, Washington, DC , 2000
  • 64th Annual Intercollegiate Student Chemists’ Convention , Bloomsburg, PA, -- Student research presenter "Halogenation of Selected Aromatic Compounds Utilizing Supported Reagents and Microwave Irradiation"
  • Northeast Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Storrs, CT -- Poster session presentation "Halogenation of Selected Aromatic Compounds Utilizing Supported Reagents and Microwave Irradiation

Current Research Position

  • Research Assistant to Dr. John Wood, IUP Chemistry Department, Synthetic Organic Chemistry research in the area of "Green Chemistry." Currently work is being completed that will be presented at the Northeast regional meeting of the American Chemical Society in June in Connecticut. The work will also be presented at various undergraduate research meetings and at the National Collegiate Honors Conference in Washington DC in December. Malosh also completed research for Dr. Roberta Eddy of the IUP Chemistry Department in developing a "pheromone" laboratory for the SPIRAL education program, 1999-present