July 26, 2022
Squaraine dyes are a type of organic dyes that exhibit strong fluorescence and absorption properties, and so are commonly used in biomedical imaging and solar cell production. Phillip Brogdon, assistant professor of chemistry, and two of his students are spending their summer in the lab trying to create new dyes that are easier to work with, leading to lower manufacturing costs.
“Solar cells, for example, are about as cheap now as they’re every going to be,” he said. “We’re trying to build new molecules that are capable of doing the same thing current solar cells do, but are less expensive, bringing down the cost of production and ultimately for the consumer.”
Creation of the dyes can be done under a normal atmosphere using techniques frequently taught in an introductory organic chemistry course, Brogdon said, making it the perfect research project for rising-sophomore August Clements ’25, a double major in biochemistry and graphic design.
“I thought it would be cool putting together the dye components,” Clements said. “This experience has definitely taught me patience, as some of the processes have posed a challenge and I’ve had to try them three or four times before they worked.”
Research opportunities are available to students as early as their first year, Brogdon said, a unique aspect of Susquehanna University’s research program.
“A lot of students who look at Susquehanna are looking for that small, close-knit experience,” he said. “While it’s uncommon for a university our size to have such an in-depth research program, we offer that.”
The earlier a student is introduced to the lab, the earlier they begin building the skills that will land them their first internship, job or professional school placement. Also contributing to their future success is the opportunity to earn author credits on peer-reviewed professional journal articles.
“That authorship is someone’s golden ticket to open any door they want, especially for undergraduates,” Brogdon said. “It’s a firm seal of approval.”
It’s a likely outcome for Clements and chemistry major Eric Ressler ’24, whose summer research is a continuation of work he started last academic year that led to the creation of two dyes he is in the process of characterizing — defining the dyes’ chemical properties. He presented on his work at this year’s Landmark Summer Research Conference.
“I wanted to participate in the summer research program because I wanted a chance to continue working on this project and see how far I can take it,” Ressler said.