SOURCE: College of DuPage

College of DuPage

June 28, 2016 17:09 ET

College of DuPage Students Participate in Summer Chemistry Internships

GLEN ELLYN, IL--(Marketwired - June 28, 2016) - For the third consecutive year, five College of DuPage students are participating in prestigious summer chemistry research internships through the College Foundation's Resource for Excellence Grant program.

Valentina Guarino of Wood Dale and Colin Kelliher of LaGrange are at Northwestern University, and Gareth Chavez of Darien, Michael Giurini of Naperville and Kai Libby of Wheaton are at Hope College in Michigan.

The Resource for Excellence Grant program provides funding to test new ideas, pilot new programs or methods, or conduct research. Chemistry Professor Richard Jarman and Assistant Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Gary Roby secure funding through the grant program to cover expenses for these research opportunities.

Guarino is part of the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Northwestern University working on the Materials Genome Initiative. This is a large-scale project with the goal of predicting properties through a combination of data mining and physics-based modeling.

"My role involves data archiving and curating that converts raw data entries into a directly usable form, performing regression analyses to uncover the relative significance of material descriptors, as well as designing new schemes for statistical methods for machine learning applications," she said. "I ultimately am striving for a career in research and design of biomechanics, and I know this opportunity will solidify my passion for the field."

At College of DuPage, Guarino was part of the Engineering Pathways program, which guarantees seamless transfer into the Engineering program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This fall at UIUC, she begins pursuing her bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis on biomechanics.

"I've always had a passion for helping others," she said. "From a young age, I volunteered with Special Olympics, adaptive sports and most recently with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. This is where I found my passion for biomechanics. In addition to my interest in design, seeing kids struggle with heavy, inconvenient biotechnology on a daily basis bothered me. However, on the other hand, seeing children with effective, modern assistive technology further inspired me to approach the field. I believe we should all have the same opportunities physically, mentally and emotionally. Creating innovative biomechanics will truly help achieve this goal.

"I would like to thank Dr. Jarman for this internship opportunity. Northwestern is an incredible research institution and hopefully one day I can continue my education in prosthetics and orthotics in one of their graduate programs."

Kelliher is working with the Materials Science and Engineering department at Northwestern on a project involving YBCMO powders.

"Although I have worked in a lab in an academic setting for my classes at COD, the summer research internship is giving me an opportunity to use the laboratory techniques and knowledge that I have learned at COD and apply them to help me succeed at Northwestern," he said. "This internship is not only a great addition to my resume, but it also gives me real-world experience in a laboratory setting, which will help me when in dental school."

Kelliher worked in his father's dental offices during the summer while growing up. When he enrolled at Boston College, Kelliher wanted to pursue both pre-dental and finance/marketing. But time constraints forced him to choose one goal, and he pursued a degree in the latter.

He worked as a finance and IT consultant for several years before deciding to return to school, now working on his prerequisites at College of DuPage in order to apply to dental school.

"When I first enrolled at COD, I was only concerned with finishing my prerequisites as fast as possible without really becoming involved in anything outside of my classes," he said. "As I grew more comfortable at COD and got to know my teachers, opportunities began to present themselves. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at COD and can't speak highly enough of the dedicated professors in the science department, especially Professors Roby and Jarman, who helped me secure this internship."

At Hope College, Chavez is working with the Biology department on dopamine as a neurotransmitter and its effects on the brain.

"Basically we are looking into dopamine and how the body responds to certain levels of it as it feels emotion, hunger, memory and many other effects," he said. "Our job is the chemical analysis aspect by determining the dopamine levels of a given sample."

Chavez turned to College of DuPage after high school because he was unsure of a career and felt the reasonable tuition would allow him time to explore options without spending a lot of money. He is now interested in a career in the medical field.

"Medicine is a big part of our world today, and I would like to be a part of that," he said. "COD is allowing me to have this great opportunity in a researcher's environment with others who are pursuing the same goal. I am learning every step of the way and it is a blessing. Maybe I will enjoy being a researcher and pursue a medical profession that involves research. Because of COD, I can be versatile to see what I actually enjoy doing. I am very grateful for everything Professor Roby has done."

Giurini is also working on a project with dopamine at Hope College, studying the biochemical effects of junk food on the brain.

"I receive very small brain samples from rats that have just consumed junk food, and my job is to find the dopamine levels present in that sample. We then compare those levels to the levels of rats that did not eat junk food to find out if dopamine levels were higher in the group that was fed junk food," he said. "Dopamine is very important to our reward pathways and has previously been associated with drug addiction. In essence, we are testing whether junk food is addictive or not, which is incredibly interesting from both a practical and scientific perspective.

"I know this internship experience will help me in my future studies and career by giving me exposure to scientific research and insight into the process that will allow me to decide whether research is a professional endeavor. It will also show me practical applications to what I have been learning and how it is relevant to my everyday life."

Giurini initially attended a large four-year university but thought it felt cold and stiff. He considered himself lost academically and came to College of DuPage, where he explored options and developed relationships with both classmates and professors. He is now planning to pursue a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering.

"I learned from my experience that COD acts like a smaller school. It enhances your learning experience tenfold by allowing you to form relationships that not only help you build connections but also help to keep you motivated and engaged in the classroom, which is vital to your success at the college level," he said. "If you're deciding between COD and a larger four-year school, COD will help you to grow so much more as a student and as a person."

Libby is working under Dr. Graham Peaslee in the Chemistry department at Hope College.

"My project will be centered around the use of a new device on Hope's campus called the particle induced X-ray emission machine," he said.

Libby pursued a bachelor's degree in Applied Health Science at Wheaton College and supplemented his studies at COD. He also completed EMT training at COD after witnessing several tragic situations involving people close to him.

He decided to study chemistry because it is the science that intrigued and challenged him the most.

"It's a love-hate relationship that I haven't been able to get away from," he said. "I'm attending the University of Edinburgh in Scotland this fall where I will study the management of bioeconomy, innovation and governance. I would like to manage a biotechnology company striving to find natural medical answers to various human diseases.

"College of DuPage has so much to offer if you take advantage of the opportunities. The professors I've had are all impressively dedicated to teaching and helping you get to where you want to go. I have yet to leave a class disappointed or frustrated."

For more information about the Chemistry program, call (630) 942-8331 or visit For more information about the College of DuPage Foundation, visit

The following files are available for download:

Contact Information

  • Contact information
    Vice President for Marketing and Communications
    Joe Moore
    (630) 942-2371