Summer Community of Scholars

Who's melding diverse disciplines?

Susan Herringer


I began my research at Clark University during the summer of 2007 under the supervision of Dr. Mark Turnbull whose research interests lie in molecular magnetism—in the design and synthesis of new metal-organic compounds in order to study their magnetic properties. Research has shown that magnetic interactions are affected by: (1) bond lengths and angles; (2) distortion (geometry); (3) halide-halide contact distances and angles. As synthetic and experimental chemist, we try to synthesize families of compounds so that we may draw connections about their magnetic exchange pathways.

One area of interest is in synthesizing complexes with the general formula (AH)2 CuX4, where A is an organic base and X is chlorine or bromine. By varying the organic base, differences are seen in the crystal packing and the hydrogen bonding between the molecules. Changes in crystal packing affect the non-bonding halide-halide contacts and therefore the sign and magnitude of the magnetic exchange interactions. Substituents like amino groups that show strong hydrogen bonding, contribute to a tightly packed crystal lattice (i.e. 2-aminopyridinium complexes). I began my research looking at 3-amino-2-substitutedpyridines as the organic base to observe how changing the position of the amino group would affect the hydrogen bonding, crystal packing and ultimately the magnetic properties. Our article, "Synthesis, Structure, and Magnetic Properties of Bis(3-amino-2-chloropyridinium) tetrahalocuprate (II) [halide = Cl or Br]," published in the Journal of Coordination Chemistry, is on two metal-organic compounds I synthesized during my first summer research internship at Clark University.

I have continued my work in molecular magnetism by synthesizing and studying a family of substituted pyrazine compounds that all form bi-bridged chains. Analysis of how the substituents on the pyrazine affect the magnetic exchange pathways will be examined.

Master’s Research

My professional goal is to apply my chemistry knowledge to the art world through the field of art conservation. Therefore, while I started and continue to do research in coordination chemistry and molecular magnetism, my master’s research will join my love of chemistry with my passion for art history.

Last summer I had the wonderful opportunity to spend five glorious weeks on the southern coast of Turkey to work at the site of an ancient Roman temple that is in complete ruins. The Antiocheia ad Cragum Reconstruction Project is a ten year project to reconstruct a temple that occupies the site. I have been recruited by Professor Rhys Townsend (one of the directors) of the Art History Department to determine where/what quarry the marble from this temple has originated.

The Antiocheia ad Cragum temple is in complete ruins – the only blocks in place are that of the floor and the vault underneath the temple. Some of the blocks remain in excellent condition and will be used in the reconstruction of the temple. However, some blocks are so badly damaged that a new block will need to be put in its place. Therefore, to reconstruct the temple it is imperative to locate the origin of the marble so that marble from the original quarry may be used in the temple reconstruction.

Using gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC Mass Spec.), we are hoping to be able to determine the origin of the marble by studying stable isotope ratios of carbon and oxygen within the stone. Carbon and oxygen are enriched within the marble during its metamorphic formation and thus by comparison to quarry samples the origin of the marble can be deduced. Ideally, sampling more than one quarry is best because there is some variability in this analysis. In Turkey, I collected marble samples from an active quarry near the site (we were only able to find one quarry in our area), samples from our site, and also samples from other ancient sites in the surrounding area (for comparison). Since the marble used for the Antiocheia temple is somewhat of a low-grade, it is believed that the marble would most likely be from a local quarry.

Outside the Lab

In my free time, I enjoy to cook. Probably influenced by my mother, who loves to experiment in the kitchen, but also the fact that I work in a synthetic chemistry lab, I have definitely brought that mindset into my kitchen and love to create new dishes. I work as a general chemistry tutor for the Chemistry Department here at Clark. I also am a Scarlet Key Senior Interviewer – I interview prospective students for admission into Clark University and also give tours on occasion. As a double major in chemistry and art history, I like visiting museums (both art and science ones).


Herringer, Susan N.; Turnbull, Mark M.; Landee, Christopher P.; Jan L. Wikaira. "Synthesis, structure, and magnetic properties of bis(3-amino-2-chloropyridinium)tetrahalocuprate(II) [halide = Cl or Br]." Journal of Coordination Chemistry, 2009.


Howard Bonar Jefferson Prize

Wen-Yang Wen Award for Excellence in Chemistry Gryphon and Pleiades Honor Society

Frederick M. and Alice Murdock Summer Science Internship, Summer 2008

Maurine H. Milburn Fund for the Sciences Summer Internship, Summer 2007