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About the Lab

Our research group at Iona College, composed solely of undergraduate student researchers, focuses on the interfacial chemistry of aqueous microdroplets mediated by self-assembled structures at the liquid-liquid interface. Aqueous microdroplets of having diameter ~1-100 micrometer have been shown to have vast promise in chemistry and biochemistry, especially in microdroplet microfluidics, which has enabled new high throughput systems for biomedical imaging, drug discovery, biomolecule synthesis, and diagnostics; providing cell-size models for bounded biological systems; and generation of soft microparticles (e.g., vesicles, liposomes, emulsion) for applications in drug delivery and materials synthesis.


News & Noteworthy

* We are looking for a postdoctoral teaching scholar to join our group. Please contact Dr. Lee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested in this position.

Congratulations to Michelle Muzzio ('15): Awardee of NSF Graduate Research Fellowship!

Michelle Muzzio ('15), our former Project Symphony member and Class of 2015 Valedictorian, who is currently in the Chemistry PhD program at Brown University, has been selected to receive an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship is awarded to just 2,000 students each year (from a pool of over 17,000 applicants) and provides three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period ($34,000 annual stipend) for her graduate study at Brown. Michelle proposes to develop a nanoparticle-based catalytic system to electrochemically reduce carbon dioxide into useful chemical products.

NSF proposal reviewers in particular praised her exceptional academic and research preparation at Iona College, with three peer-reviewed publications as an undergraduate under the mentorship of Professor Sunghee Lee.

Congratulations, Michelle!

Two Iona Science Students from Dr. Sunghee Lee's Research Group to Perform Summer Research at the University of Tokyo, an NSF-Sponsored International Collaboration

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded funding to Dr. Sunghee Lee in the Chemistry Department to promote an international research collaboration with Professor Shoji Takeuchi of the University of Tokyo. Two students from Dr. Lee's Research Group - Jacqueline Denver (Class of 2017, Biochemistry) and Michael McGlone (Class of 2017, Physics) - will be joining a globally renowned scientific team in Tokyo this summer to perform research in the field of Biomimetic Soft Materials Chemistry. These students will be involved in separate research projects and travel to Japan at different times during the summer. They follow Peter J. Milianta (Class of 2016, Biochemistry) who traveled last year to Japan for a month-long research project. Dr. Lee noted, "This is a tremendous opportunity for our students to experience a true intellectual collaboration. Last year, our research partners were very impressed by Peter's contribution, hence our fruitful partnership continues. Michael and Jacqueline have been role models in my research laboratory, leading very successful projects. Their summer experience will provide an even greater level of confidence and strength towards their careers in science in the future. I am very proud to be able to offer this opportunity, and they deserve it!" The NSF awards this 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."

PJ Milianta (Biochemistry, Class of 2016) to Present Research on Capitol Hill

PJ has been accepted for participation in the 20th Annual Posters on the Hill in Washington DC, which will take place on April 19-20, 2016, as sponsored by the national Council on Undergraduate Research. His research under the mentorship of Dr. Sunghee Lee, Board of Trustees Endowed Professor and Chair of Chemistry, was chosen as one of 60 posters from 300 highly competitive applications. PJ will join a selected elite group of undergraduate student researchers to have an opportunity to present and testify the significance of research initiatives to members of Congress and the Senate on Capitol Hill.

Our Recent Work on the water permeability across symmetric and asymmetric droplet interface bilayers published in Langmuir, 2015, ACS Publications

Our group's recent paper, titled "Water Permeability Across Symmetric and Asymmetric Droplet Interface Bilayers: Interaction of Cholesterol Sulfate with DPhPC" appears in the journal Langmuir, a publication of the American Chemical Society ( The paper is coauthored by four undergraduates, Peter J. Milianta (Biochemistry '16), Michelle Muzzio (Chemistry '15), Jacqueline Denver (Biochemistry '17), and Geoffrey Cawley (Chemsitry '16). Congratulations to the research team!

Peter J. Milianta reflects on his recent experience working at the University of Tokyo, Japan

PJ in Japan, June 2016

Peter J. Milianta ('16 Biochemistry) has recently returned from a month-long research participation in the laboratory of Prof. Shoji Takeuchi at the University of Tokyo. He lived and worked as a member of Prof. Takeuchi's group, as part of a collaboration between U. Tokyo and our laboratory. PJ reflects on his experience and how he has blossomed into a mature scientist with a global perspective, as a result of NSF funding.

"It was both a tremendous honor and an exceptional delight to collaborate with the Takeuchi Group, one of the leading research teams at the University of Tokyo Institute of Industrial Science. I was welcomed by a kindhearted and hospitable group of individuals that helped me to acclimate to the customs and environment of their laboratory, as well as to my life in Tokyo. Working on a novel microfluidics device, I was openly exposed to chemical engineering and challenged to use my knowledge of biochemistry and surface chemistry to overcome a range of obstacles. Through our collaborative endeavor, I was successful in optimizing it for further experimentation in the United States." Read more.

Big Splash of Project Symphony Team of Fourteen at the ACS National Meeting in Boston MA on August 15‐20, 2015

ACS Boston, Project Symphony group photo

As a capstone experience for student researchers in the summer 2015, fourteen Iona undergraduate research students and their faculty mentor, Dr. Sunghee Lee, proudly joined the international chemistry community and presented their research at the 250th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Boston, MA. Dr. Lee presented the talk at the Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry, titled "Droplet Interface Bilayer: A Model for Biomembrane Water Permeability Studies".  The students also presented four posters summarizing their research results; (1) "Influence of Tail-Group Lipid Chain Structure on Water Permeability in Artificial Biological Membrane" (2) "Tuning of Membrane Permeability via Various Ion Interactions" (3) "The Formation of Symmetric and Asymmetric Droplet Interface Bilayers: Water Permeability Studies" and (4) "Effects of Solvent and Method of Preparation on Artificial Biological Membrane".


Our Group Member, Michelle Muzzio ('15) named as 2015 Iona Valedictorian

Michelle Muzzio ('15, Chemistry and English) is named as 2015 valedictorian. Michelle's senior honors thesis, "Advances of the Droplet Interface Bilayer (DIB): Modeling the Biological Membrane and Beyond" (Dr. S. Lee, advisor/mentor),  was conferred with distinction. Michelle will start a PhD program in Chemistry at Brown University in the Fall 2015.


Our Recent Work on the interactions of self-assembled monolayers and crystals published in Langmuir, 2015, ACS Publications.

Our group's recent paper, titled "Adaptability of monoglyceride-induced crystallization of K2SO4: Effect of various anions and lipid chain splay" appears in the journal "Langmuir", a publication of the American Chemical Society ( ). The paper is coauthored by two undergraduates, Omoakhe Tisor ('15 Biochemistry), Michelle Muzzio ('15 Chemistry), and one High School student, David Lopez (New Rochelle High School, class of '15). Congratulations to the research team!


Dr. Lee, Named as "Iona College Board of Trustees Endowed Professor"

The Iona College Board of Trustees has created the first fully endowed professorship, part of the College’s strategic plan, Advancing Our Legacy and Defining Our Future, and its comprehensive fundraising campaign, Iona Forever. The first holder of the professorship will be Sunghee Lee, Ph.D., professor of Analytical Chemistry and department chair. The honor also will carry a stipend, additional funds for research and scholarly activity, along with the title of Iona College Board of Trustees Endowed Professor in Science. “Dr. Lee serves as a model faculty member who blends excellent teaching with original research and provides her students with the opportunity to collaborate with her on significant projects in her lab,” said Michael Marsden, Ph.D., Iona’s acting provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. Read more news release (4/24/2014).


Our Recent Work Establishes Effect of Cholesterol on Membrane Water Permeability using Droplet Bilayer (Published in Langmuir, ACS Publications)

Dr. Lee's recent paper, titled "Effect of Monoglyceride Structure and Cholesterol Content on Water Permeability of the Droplet Bilayer" has been published inLangmuir, a publication of the American Chemical Society ( ). The paper is coauthored by four undergraduates, Zuzanna Michalak ('13 Chemistry), Michelle Muzzio ('15 Chemistry), Peter J. Milianta ('16 Biochemistry), and Rosario Giacomini ('15 Biochemistry). In this paper, the process of water permeation across lipid membranes was investigated using a droplet interface bilayer (DIB) by contacting two aqueous droplets in an immiscible solvent containing bilayer-forming surfactant. We demonstrate that the DIB can be employed as a convenient model membrane to rapidly explore subtle structural effects on bilayer water permeability. This work lays the groundwork for the further development of DIB systems for the study of a wide variety of other processes involving small molecule permeation. Congratulations to the research team!


Jaclyn Robustelli ('14) and Peter Vitale (’14) presented at the Honors Thesis Day, February 28, 2014

Jaclyn and Peter recently presented their senior honors theses. Jaclyn’s thesis is on “Development of a Hybrid Analytical Technique Using Near Infrared Spectroscopy and Thin Layer Chromatography" and Peter’s work is on “Generation and Analysis of Glycine Polymorphs”. Jaclyn is heading to a PhD program in Biochemistry and Peter is advanding to a Medical Program. They have been role models in our laboratory and we wish them great success for their future endeavors.


Twelve Group Members Trek to Nation's Chemistry Hub, Present Their Research

Twelve group members attended and presented their research at the 246th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Indianapolis, IN. The student attendees were Jaclyn Robustelli ('14, Biochemistry), Peter Vitale ('14, Biochemistry), Michelle Muzzio ('15, Chemistry), Omoakhe Tisor ('15, Biochemistry), Rosario Giacomini ('15, Biochemistry), Safiat Ayinde ('15 Biochemistry), Peter Milianta ('16, Biochemistry), Ricardo Oliveira ('16, Chemistry), Jacqueline Martinez ('16, Chemistry), Melissa Morales ('16, Chemistry), Geoffrey Cawley ('16, Chemistry) and Sean Campbell ('16, Computer Science). The student team made three presentations to an audience of interested chemists. Read more.


Dr. Lee Receives the 2013 Rising Star Award from the Women Chemists Committee (WCC) of the American Chemical Society (ACS)

This award recognizes ten exceptional women scientists approaching mid-level careers across all sectors [academic, industrial, government and non-profit] who have demonstrated outstanding promise for contributions to their respective fields. Dr. Lee received this award "for excellence in the development and understanding of the liquid-liquid interface, and passionately nurturing the talents of a large array of undergraduates in publishable research projects". She presented her work at an awards symposium at the 245th National Meeting of the ACS in New Orleans, LA on Monday, April 8th 2013.


Dr. Lee Receives Westchester Chemical Society NY Section of ACS-Distinguished Scientist 2013

Dr. Lee has been the recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Chemical Society's NY section's Westchester Chemical Society. The award was in recognition of Dr. Lee's "Advanced studies in surface chemistry of droplets for the fundamental understanding of self-assembly at interfaces, and for passionately cultivating the talents of a large array of undergraduate researchers". The ceremony and lecture took place on Wednesday, May 1, at Pace University in Pleasantville, N.Y. Thirteen Iona Chemistry students were in attendance.


Significant New Droplet Crystallization Technique Published in CrystEngComm, a Journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry

Dr. Lee's recent paper, titled "Tunable crystallization via osmosis-driven transport across a droplet interface bilayer" has been published in CrystEngComm, a Journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry ( ). This paper is coauthored by Zuzanna Michalak ('13), Darius Fartash ('13), Nousin Haque ('13). In this paper, we demonstrate osmosis-driven nucleation of crystallizable solutes using a droplet interface bilayer (DIB) system. Such systems provide rapid and highly configurable platforms for the control and study of crystallization phenomena at the microdroplet level. This work is significant for future applications of droplet technology in crystallizing targets such as proteins, where the availability of ever newer methods for inducing crystal formation are consistently in demand. Congratulations to the research team!


Our Group Members, Eleven Chemistry/Biochemistry Students Present Research at 244th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia PA on August 19-23, 2012

Eleven group members attended and presented their research at the 244th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The student attendees were Darius Fartash (’13), Zuzanna Michalak (’13), Erin Morgan ('13), Allyson Moffat ('13), Jaclyn Robustelli ('14), Peter Vitale ('14), Courtney Veilleux ('14), Michelle Muzzio ('15), Omoakhe Tisor ('15), Kevin Towler ('15), Rosario Giacomini ('15). The student team made five presentations to an audience of interested chemists.


There are five significant milestones we are celebrating! Congratulations!

1. Paul Sanstead ('11) has been accepted and will be attending University of Chicago, PhD Program in Chemistry.

2. Nick Florio ('11) has been accepted and will be attending SUNY, Stony Brook, School of Medicine, MD Program.

3. Catherine Morris ('12) has been accepted and will be attending St Joseph's College of Pharmacy Pharm.D Program.

4. Kiersten Giusto ('12) has been accepted and will be attending St John's University, PhD Program in Pharmaceutical Science.

5. Alexander Soderberg ('12) has been accepted and will be attending Northern Arizona University, MS Program in Chemistry.

Our Recent Paper Published in Journal of Colloid and Interface Science

Our paper titled "Sensitivity of Cationic Surfactant Templates to Specific Anions in Liquid Interface Crytallization" has been published in Journal of Colloid and Interface Science. This paper is coauthored by Paul Sanstead ('11), Nick Florio ('11), Kiersten Giusto ('12) and Catherine Morris ('12). This paper describes the effect of specific ions on template capability of wide variety of cationic surfactants to nucleate inorganic crystals. Surprisingly we discovered that similar quarternary ammonium surfactants can have differential sensitivity to specific ions, revealing complex interplay among surfactant structure, solute, and oil solvent. Our results should contribute to an increase in understanding of how supramolecular aggregates at the liquid-liquid interface promote the synthesis of particles (e.g., nanoparticles and crystals) having vital importance to nature, technology, health, and industry. Congratulations to the research team!


Our Group Member, Erin Morgan ('13) Receives 2012 ACS Student Leadership Award

Iona College junior Erin Morgan ('13) has been selected to receive the American Chemical Society's (ACS) 2012 Student Leadership Award. The award will be presented to Morgan at the 2012 ACS Leadership Institute to be held in Fort Worth, Texas, January 20-22. The award is made in recognition of emerging leaders in the ACS student chapter network and helps them prepare for leadership opportunities at volunteer organizations, such as ACS, and in their professional career. Erin, who is pursuing a major in chemistry, is in the Honors Program and is a Patrick Martin Scholar, and currently serves as President of the Iona Chemical Society. She is an active research member of the group Professor Sunghee Lee, and has recently presented her research at the Eastern Analytical Symposium for work on the topic of "Monitoring the Protein Integrity by Near Infrared Spectroscopy". This is the second time that an Iona Chemistry student has won this award. Loreta Geneviciute ('10), also our group memeber, who is currently enrolled at NYU College of Dentistry, was a recipient in 2008. The award is a reflection of the dynamic leadership of the Iona Chemical Society under Erin, as well as the ACS's view of the growth potential for the Iona Chemical Society and the Chemistry Department. Congratulations Erin!


Four Chemistry Students Present Three Research Posters at the 50th Eastern Analytical Symposium on Nov. 15-16, 2011

Professor Sunghee Lee (Chemistry) and four Iona Chemistry majors presented their research at the 50th Eastern Analytical Symposium (EAS) on Nov. 15-16, held at Somerset, New Jersey. EAS is the world's leading community for analytical chemists. Three research posters were presented at this symposium; (1) “Monitoring the Structural Integrity of Soluble Proteins by NIR” by Alexander Soderberg (Senior) and Erin Morgan (Junior); (2) “Measurement of Refractive Index and Temperature of Aqueous and Non-Aqueous Reagents and Solutions by NIR” by Allyson Moffat (Junior) and Jaclyn Robustelli (Sophomore); and (3) Development and Validation of an “FTNIR Method for Identification of Spectrally Similar Materials using a Hierarchial Approach” by Alexander Soderberg (Senior). The research is funded by the Bruker Optics Inc., which loaned state-of-the art science equipment called “Near Infrared (NIR) Spectrometer” to Dr. Lee’s research group and her students. The students are also grateful to Mr. John Richmond, the Vice President of NIR & Process Technology of Bruker, and external collaborator and world leading NIR expert, Mr. Emil Ciurczak, and Ms. Cynthia Kradjel for support.


Our Group Members Present Research at the 242nd ACS National Meeting at Denver, Colorado on Aug. 28-Sept. 1, 2011

Five group members presented their research at the 242nd American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting on Aug. 28-Sept.1, held at Denver, Colorado. Around the theme, "Chemistry of Air, Space & Water," over 10,000 chemists from all over the world joined this national meeting to share their knowledge, network and learn about cutting-edge research. One poster was presented at the Colloid and Surface Science Division, "Effect of cationic surfactant template and its interaction with specific anion" by Paul Sanstead '11 and Nick Florio '11. Another poster was presented at the Division of Chemical Education, entitled, "Modulation of contact angle of droplet interface bilayers: Effect of ionic nature and strength" by Darius Fartash '13, Zuzanna Michalak '13, and Nousin Haque '13. The research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). This is the second year of a three-year, $157,705 NSF grant. The students are also grateful to the Patrick J. Martin Foundation, Eli Lilly/WCC, and AMEX grant for enabling them to attend this conference.


Zuzanna Michalak ('13) Awarded ACS Travel Grant, Aug, 2011

Sophomore Chemistry major, Zuzanna Michalak ('13) has been selected by the American Chemical Society's (ACS) Woman Chemists Committee (WCC) to receive a 2011 Eli Lilly/WCC Travel Grant. This highly competitive award is given to a select few outstanding female students from undergraduate and graduate institutions. This year awardees include two undergraduates, and six PhD students. Zuzanna is one of only two undergraduates to have won. Zuzanna presented a research poster at the 2011 National ACS meeting in Denver CO., in August.


Nick Florio ('11) and Paul Sanstead ('11) receive honor at NY ACS, YCC Symposium, March. 2011

Two Chemistry seniors have won a prize for best poster presentation at a recent New York - American Chemical Society (NY-ACS) symposium. The students, Paul J. Sanstead and Nick Florio, presented on their research work titled "Effect of cationic surfactant template and its interaction with specific anion: The case of K2SO4 crystallization at the liquid-liquid interface," at the Inaugural NY ACS Younger Chemist Committee (YCC) Research Symposium at The Cooper Union, New York, NY on Saturday, March 19, 2011. The prize is given for both the quality of the scientific investigation represented by the poster, and for skill in presentation. Their work was performed under the mentorship of Dr. Sunghee Lee, chair of Iona's Chemistry department. "Nick and Paul's achievement mark a milestone in the upward trajectory of Iona Chemistry. People are beginning to take notice of how we integrate undergraduate students and research, and I am especially proud of how well they represented our efforts," said Dr. Lee.


Paul Sanstead ('11) receive honors thesis with distinction, March, 2011

Paul Sanstead recently received a distinction on his senior honors thesis, "Effect of Specific Anion on Templated Crystal Nucleation at the Liquid--Liquid Interface" (Dr. S. Lee, advisor/mentor). "Paul is a rare student who is more than deserving of this honor. He will graduate with two peer reviewed articles to his name - a rare and impressive accomplishment for any undergraduate. Paul is currently looking at graduate school options and we are confident he will be as successful in those endeavors as he has been during his undergraduate career," said Dr. Jeanne Zaino, director of the Honors Program.