The University of San Francisco: College of Arts & Sciences

Spotlight: Joe Czekner

Back in March, the American Chemical Society held their 243rd National Meeting and Exposition in San Diego, California. Joseph Czekner, a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry, competed against 130 presenters in the division of Physical Chemistry. Joe’s conference poster, “Investigation of Low Temperature Oxidation Reactions of Methyl Butyrate and Ethyl Butyrate using Photoionization Mass Spectrometry,” took the Physical Chemistry Student Poster Award. I talked to Joe a little bit about his research and the National Meeting.Q: How long have you been working on this research?

Joe: I have been working with Professor Meloni since January 2011. The project that I won the award for was the first one I started working on.

Q: Can you tell me a bit about it in a way that someone like me (i.e., someone with no chemistry background!) would understand it?

Joe: We are studying some new renewable bio-fuels and fuel additives that are proposed to replace gasoline and ethanol. Through our methods we can analyze the first steps of how these fuels burn, along with some of the possible products/pollutants that will come from burning. This allows us to make quantitative statements about if these fuels are good replacements and if they should be looked into further for how economically feasible they are to put into use, including if they require us to modify our infrastructure - i.e. do we need to design new pumps or motors.

Q: What did you do to prepare for the National Meeting?

Joe: After the countless hours of data analysis and calculations, preparing the poster was simple and just a matter of organizing my thoughts about the initial findings. Then, once it was printed, I had a few practice runs where I explained everything I was doing and my results to fellow grad students and my roommates. That was very helpful since I haven't had very much experience explaining my projects to people who didn't know what I was doing already.

Q: What’s next for you in terms of research?

Joe: I am now working on checking and finalizing to make sure all of the calculations are accurate. We will be running two more experiments next month to make sure everything is consistent. After that I will be writing an article about these fuels that I am going to try and publish in a scientific journal.