John P. Cunningham Internship an extremely valuable experience, StFX chemistry students say

John P Cunningham Award 2023
L-r, John P. Cunningham Internship (Chemistry) recipients Kogie Esteban and Victor Efrain Martinez Macias

Being a part of the science community at StFX, learning new skills, and broadening career horizons were all part of the many benefits of receiving the John P. Cunningham Internship (Chemistry) at StFX, say the 2023 award recipients.

StFX chemistry students Kogie Esteban and Victor Efrain Martinez Macias both say they are thankful to receive the 2023 internship, which provides $8,000 for 14 weeks of work under the supervision of a StFX faculty mentor.

“This research award allowed me to gain a better understanding of photochemistry beyond what I was taught in lectures,” says Kogie Esteban, a fourth year honours chemistry student from Manila, Philippines, whose research involves investigating nanoparticle/semiconductor materials as potential sustainable catalysts for light-activated waste control and sustainable methods of plastic waste degradation. The focus of the research is mainly on underdeveloped metal oxide semiconductor materials such as bismuth(III) oxide. 

“It gave me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge and sharpen my laboratory skills through hands-on experience. By conducting my own research under the supervision of Dr. Geniece Hallett-Tapley, I improved my collaboration, time management, and organizational skills. Each of these will be extremely valuable as I work towards my goal of becoming a chemistry professor,” he says. 

“One part of this experience that I would like to highlight was working closely with others in a team environment. Working in a lab with six other chemists, I quickly learned the importance of delegating tasks, communication, and respecting deadlines to ensure each individual was able to complete their research. These skills are important in any career and thus allowed me to further develop my laboratory skills as an individual part of a larger group.”


Victor Efrain Martinez Macias, a third year honours chemistry student from Portoviejo, Manabi, Ecuador, says his research focused on nanomaterials for biological applications.

“Especially, I worked on the synthesis of gold nanoparticles coated with peptides to study their reactivity with proteases. The project is a proof of concept for the development of a biosensor for proteins upregulated in diseases,” says Mr. Macias, who is co-supervised by Dr. Alexander Foo and Dr. Geniece Hallett-Tapley. He worked in both labs.

“This research project meant a lot to me because it allowed working in a professional science environment while learning different lab techniques. Also, it had a personal meaning for me since I know these types of opportunities are missing in my home country, so I feel very grateful,” he says.

“Getting involved in research had a lot of impact on me since it made me consider the honours program in chemistry and think possibly of graduate school. It has helped me in my career choices.”

Mr. Macias says the highlight of this process is being part of the scientific community at StFX and being able to be creative during the research project. “I am very thankful for this opportunity, and I hope I can continue doing research in the future.”