Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate students working in the McMahon group play an important role in their research projects, while receiving mentorship from graduate students and other group members.  Some have been the lead researcher on a project within the group, gaining skills in a variety of areas.  Others have focused on a specific research area within the context of a project led by another researcher.  The McMahon group has a track record of friendly, supportive, and collaborative mentorship that often results in the publication of undergraduate work.

If you are interested in joining the McMahon | Woods research group, please contact Prof. McMahon or a current graduate student.  For general information on undergraduate research in the Department of Chemistry at UW – Madison, please visit the Department’s Undergraduate Research page.

Danny, Grace, Rodrigo, and Mik worked with Sam Kougias on numerous syntheses.  They were involved in all aspects — from reading literature and proposing synthetic routes to carrying out the reactions and purifying the compounds.  All four of these undergraduates were involved in synthesizing a set of isomeric cyanobutadienes, now published in the Journal of Organic Chemistry. 

Graphical Abstract for Cyanobutadienes paper
Graphical Abstract for 4-Cyanopyridine paper

Jieun worked with Matisha analyzing the rotational spectrum of 4-cyanopyridine.  She learned to use the software and least-squares fit the spectrum of this molecule from 130 – 360 GHz in its ground vibrational state.  This work appears in the Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy.

Zach worked with Brent and Brian to determine a highly precise molecular structure of pyrimidine.  He carried out several hydrogen-deuterium exchange reactions to generate multiple isotopologues of pyridine, collected their spectra on the group rotational spectrometer, analyzed numerous pyridine isotopologues’ rotational spectra, and utilized computational software as part of this project, published in the Journal of Chemical Physics.

Graphical Abstract for Pyrimidine Structure paper
Graphical Abstract for Chloropyrazine paper

Phoenix worked with Maria and Brian analyzing the rotational spectra of chloropyrazine and its vibrationally excited states.  In all, 23 vibrational states of chloropyrazine were analyzed — a record for the number appearing in a single publication — until our own group topped it.  His work appears in the Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy.

Hunter worked with Brian fitting the ground vibrational state spectrum of benzonitrile.  The work resulted in an improvement of the spectroscopic constants from those previously available and was published in the Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy.

Graphical Abstract for Benzonitrile Paper
Graphical Abstract for Fullerene Paper

Andrew worked with Brian examining various carbon condensation pathways using computational chemistry.  His work contributed to insights on interstellar fullerene formation and was published in the Journal of Organic Chemistry.

Josh and Mitch worked with Brent and Brian in the study of pyridazine’s rotational spectra.  They were involved in using the spectrometer to collect spectra, carrying out deuterium-enrichment reactions, and analyzing numerous rotational spectra of pyridazine’s vibrational states and isotopologues, as well as assisting with the rebuilding of an upgraded spectrometer.  Their work on pyridazine appears in the Journal of Chemical Physics.

Spectrum of Pyridazine
Bonvallet, P. A.; Breitkreuz, C. J.; Kim, Y. S.; Todd, E. M.; Traynor, K.; Fry, C. G.; Ediger, M. D.; McMahon, R. J. Organic Glass-Forming Materials: 1,3,5-Tris(naphthyl)benzene Derivatives. J. Org. Chem. 2007, 72 (26), 10051-10057.

Caroline and Eric worked with Paul and Seol on the synthesis of glass-forming organic materials.  These students were involved in the planning, execution of syntheses, and work-up and analysis of products.   The work is published in the Journal of Organic Chemistry.

Eric additionally worked with Paul examining the rearrangement of naphthyl carbenes.  He took part in the synthesis, the matrix-isolation spectroscopy using the group’s instrument, and analyzing the photochemistry of these isomeric species.  The work is published in the Journal of Organic Chemistry.

Bonvallet, P. A.; Todd, E. M.; Kim, Y. S.; McMahon, R. J. Access to the Naphthylcarbene Rearrangement Manifold via Isomeric Benzodiazocycloheptatrienes. J. Org. Chem. 2002, 67 (25), 9031-9042.