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Chemistry Student Performs Research In Japan In NSF-Sponsored International Collaboration

Fall Convocation faculty award winnersAlessandra Armetta ’18, in traditional Japanese garment, Kimono, and colleagues from the Kanagawa Institute of Industrial Science and Technology, University of Tokyo, in June 2017.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY – The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded funding to Sunghee Lee, Ph.D., Board of Trustees endowed professor and chair of Chemistry, to promote an international research collaboration with Shoji Takeuchi, Ph.D., of the University of Tokyo, Japan.
This summer, Alessandra Armetta ’18, an ACS Chemistry major, joined a globally renowned scientific team in Tokyo to perform research in the field of biophysical chemistry. Armetta’s contribution to the work has led to the publication of its proceedings at the renowned International Conference on Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences (MicroTAS 2017). Armetta presents her research finding titled "Characterization of Monoolein Bilayer Thickness Using Specific Membrane Capacitance" at the conference in Savannah, Ga., from October 22-26.
"It is a tremendous opportunity for our students to experience a true intellectual collaboration,” said Dr. Lee. “Each year, research partners in Japan have been very impressed by our students' contribution; hence our fruitful partnership continues. Their summer experience will provide an even greater level of confidence and strength toward their careers in science in the future. I am very proud to be able to offer this opportunity, and they deserve it!"
Armetta followed Peter J. Milianta ’16, a Biochemistry major; Michael McGlone ’17, a Physics major; and Jacqueline Denver ’17, a Biochemistry major, in the program. The Iona students all traveled over the past two academic years to the University of Tokyo for the month-long research project.
The NSF awards the funding to promote their vision of a "nation that creates and exploits new concepts in science and engineering and provides global leadership in research and education."
Armetta describes the experience in her own words.
by Alessandra Armetta '18
My experience in Japan was, most importantly, a confidence boost. I love being a chemistry major, and I love working and performing research in the lab as a member of Project Symphony, Dr. Lee's Research Group. However, chemistry is by no means easy, and I often find myself second-guessing my future. In school at Iona there is a plethora of guidance and support, and I pride myself on the support system I have around me. In Japan, however, this support system was cut down to only two people – Dr. Lee and Dr. Osaki (the lab manager in Japan), two people I certainly did not want to disappoint.
Nothing went right the morning I left. At 4 a.m., my flight across the Pacific was canceled and I was placed on a much later flight. As a result of this initial experience, perhaps, I did not pause to acknowledge this was the first time I was really alone. I am a very shy person and often have others who will take charge around me. But it was not until I was sitting on the futon in my residence in Tokyo where I would spend the next five weeks, that I realized that no one would be there to take charge other than myself. Through what I can only say must have been the grace of God, every weekend when I would travel around town to go sightseeing, I gradually became a highly independent individual. I knew how to get around, what I would need, when I would need it, and was more than comfortable talking to new people. Being alone far away from home gave me confidence in myself, enough to know that I was capable of this kind of independence.
During my time at KISTECH (Kanagawa Institute of Industrial Science and Technology, an associated academy to the University of Tokyo) everyone was very warm and friendly; they were excited to learn about me and to talk about themselves and Japan. On my last day, as I was departing, I was told they enjoyed having me working with them. I knew while I was there I had done considerably well with my research. Everything I thought would be difficult ended up working out. What I did not expect was that someone as shy as me would be as well-received as I was. Being told my presence was enjoyed gave me confidence to know that I could work as a chemist after college. I cannot fully explain it but, when I was told this, I knew it was because of a combination of the work I had done and that by some means a shy person was able to be personable, two things that before this experience I previously believed I was unable to do. Because of this, I have a great amount more of confidence in the major I have chosen and my ability do well in my future. I love being a chemistry major and I feel that because I love what I do that it pushed me to do what I needed to do to thrive in my time working at KISTECH and being in Japan.

Founded in 1940, Iona College is a four-year private coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers and American Catholic higher education, located just 20 miles from Midtown Manhattan in New Rochelle. With a global network of more than 45,000 alumni, Iona is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona offers undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science and business administration, pre-professional and professional programs, Master of Arts, Master of Science and Business Administration degrees, and numerous advanced certificate programs. The College is the second-largest private sector employer in New Rochelle and provides more than 66,000 service hours in the community each year. Studies indicate the College also has an annual economic impact of $258 million as measured by the NY Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU). See more at