Dr. Lionel Cheruzel, an associate professor of chemistry in the College of Science, has been working on light-driven biocatalysts work with students in his research lab since joining San Jose State in 2009.
“We are making good progress, thanks to a great team of research students over the years,” he said, on a Friday afternoon in his Duncan Hall office.
Cheruzel will be sharing his research on Oct. 19, at noon, in MLK 255/257, as part of the fall 2016 University Scholars Series. His research is currently funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and he strives to offer opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds in his lab.
Most semesters he has 15 to 20 students working with him on biocatalysts that may someday create green and sustainable synthesis pathways for pharmaceuticals, fragrances and fine chemicals. He and his students have published 10 articles since 2010. He focuses on recruiting undergraduate students, but also hosts high school interns during the summer and supports graduate-level researchers.
“I like recruiting lower division students because they can stay in the lab longer – for three or four years,” he said. “I get to see them grow as a researcher.”
Cheruzel recruits his students from chemistry, biology and engineering classes. For the last three years, Mallory Kato, ’09 Chemistry, ’13 MS Chemistry, has helped with the experiments and managing the lab.
Like Cheruzel, Kato enjoys working with students in the lab, and she sees the benefit of lab work to understanding the curriculum from her own experience as a student.
Chemistry master’s student Caroline Harmon and Evelynn Henry, ’16 Biochemistry, said one of the greatest things they learned from Cheruzel is how to conduct research with limited resources.
“The way Dr. C uses things in an original way – making it work for what he needs – is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned,” Harmon said. “Sometimes I can see how the wheels are churning.”
Henry placed as a finalist in the 2016 SJSU Student Research Competition for her project with Cheruzel as her faculty mentor.
“We are getting to apply things we learned,” she said. “It is very different. I learned a lot on site, and it made me appreciate my education.”
While Cheruzel said he enjoys teaching, his true passion is working with students in the lab.
“Research makes me happy,” he said.