Niagara University juniors Zachary Mariani and Christopher Fritschi had their chemistry research recognized during the Western New York American Chemical Society’s Undergraduate Research Symposium.

A pair of Niagara University students took home top prizes from the Western New York American Chemical Society’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, which was held April 9 at Canisius College.

Christopher Fritschi, a junior chemistry major from West Seneca, won the Best Oral Presentation for his work on the development of a synthetic route to caramboxin, a rare amino acid found in star fruit.

Zachary Mariani, a junior biochemistry major from Wilson, claimed the award for Outstanding Poster Presentation. He is currently working toward an affordable synthesis of aurantioclavine, a precursor for promising drugs that target leukemia cells.

The symposium was attended by students and faculty from 13 institutions and featured 44 presentations on widely ranging research topics. The event attracted corporate sponsorship from Pearson Higher Education, Shimadzu, GenTech Scientific, and Krackeler Scientific.

Eighteen Niagara University students attended the conference, with 16 of them presenting posters and/or talks.

Presentations by NU students included:

  • Zacheriah A. Gernold, Laura D. Brunelle, and Robyn E. Goacher “Preliminary results on the removal of surface contaminants from Wood Polymer Composites (WPCs) for analysis using Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometery (ToF-SIMS)”
  • Lauren G. DiFonzo, Kathleen C. Lesko and Robyn E. Goacher “What came first? The blank ink or the black ink? That is the question.”
  • Matthew R. Michienzi, Courtney L. Whitney and Robyn E. Goacher “Thermogravimetric analysis of extracted and unextracted lignocellulose after laccase and xylanase treatments”
  • Daniel E. Potoczak, Ciara N. Pitman, James T. Marton, Howard A. Lehman and Robyn E. Goacher “HPLC-ESI-MS sugar detection: improving sensitivity and checking for matrix effects”
  • Christopher S. Swagler, Emilee R. Welton, Kevin S. Lucas, Sarah A. Gehl and Robyn E. Goacher “Determining sugars in enzyme-treated wood supernatants: effect of buffer on the 3,5-dinitrosalicylic acid (DNS) assay”
  • Rebecca Ford, Samer Isa, Ethan DeCicco and Luis Sanchez “Studies toward an affordable preparation of D-vinylglycine”
  • Christopher Fritschi, Andrea Pascucci and Luis Sanchez “Developing a synthetic route to caramboxin, a bioactive non-peptidic amino acid” **Best Oral Presentation award**
  • Zachary Mariani, Stephanie Scharmach and Luis Sanchez “Tuning chemoselectivity toward an affordable synthesis of aurantioclavine” **Outstanding Poster Presentation award**
  • Emily York and Luis Sanchez “Reaction optimization for the synthesis of novel vinylglycine derivatives”

Also in attendance from Niagara were students Courtney Whitney and Mohit Gogna, and Drs. Robyn Goacher and Luis Sanchez.

The American Chemical Society is the world’s largest scientific society and one of the world’s leading sources of authoritative scientific information. A nonprofit organization, chartered by Congress, ACS is at the forefront of the evolving worldwide chemical enterprise and the premier professional home for chemists, chemical engineers and related professions around the globe.

To learn more about Niagara University’s chemistry programs, please visit

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