Chapman University students Mo Hijazi ’24 and Leah Zahn ’23 were recently awarded the Outstanding Poster Award at the SoCal Chemistry Research Symposium hosted by the University of California, Irvine on Friday, August 12. Due to the pandemic, the conference was held virtually.

Mo Hijazi, Junior Biological Sciences major, presented his poster on his research titled Designing Hollow-Core Nanogels for Efficient Drug Delivery Methods, and Leah Zahn, Senior Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major, presented her poster on her research titled Counterion Effects on Sulfur(VI)-Fluoride Exchange Mediated By Calcium Salts.

We asked them a few questions about their experience presenting at the SoCal Chemistry Research Symposium:


What was the conference like? Was there anything you learned or any connections that were made?


The SoCal Undergraduate Chemistry Symposium was my first conference and an exciting one! It was rewarding to finally speak on the research I had conducted over the past few months. It was also enjoyable speaking with several professors and students who gave me different perspectives on my research approach. Many of these conversations ended with interesting questions that I’m excited to tackle as I move forward with my research.


The conference was a great experience! It was really interesting to get to speak with other undergraduate students about my research and also some graduate students. They asked great questions and brought up aspects of my project I hadn’t thought about before. I also learned a lot about other students’ research and was exposed to new topics and research areas! The conference also included industry and grad school panels as well as information sessions about graduate school that were super helpful as I start to make post-graduation plans.


What was the research you presented on? What was it like sharing your research?


My research focuses on synthesizing Hollow-Core nanogels. With this project, I hope to achieve a better nanogel-based network construct for protecting and shielding drugs to achieve greater drug loading and delivery capacity. Hollow-core nanogels are a relatively new field of study, which made it that much more exciting to have the opportunity to share my findings. It was also very interesting to listen to other scientists in the field to better understand their approaches to different challenges, giving me some ideas for my project.


At this conference, I presented my work on the effects of counterions on calcium Lewis Acid catalysis. Essentially, I used computational chemistry to model reactions in organic chemistry to understand the mechanism and energy of the reaction. I’ve been working on this in Dr. Ogba’s lab for a little over a year now, and am nearing the end of my project! Sharing my research was very rewarding, and I was able to practice communicating my work to those who may study a different field or may not be familiar with organic chemistry!

Congratulations Mo and Leah!