Kruppe Finds Right Mix for Chemistry, Baseball

Albion's early-morning baseball practices allowed Chris Kruppe to work in the chemistry lab.
Albion's early-morning baseball practices allowed Chris Kruppe to work in the chemistry lab.

Under the direction of Professor Kevin Metz, Albion College chemistry students have successfully synthesized nanoparticles and attached them to other structures in the lab. Lyndsey Reynolds, '11, received the best poster award at the Midwestern Undergraduate Symposium on Research in Chemistry after successfully soaking small particles of palladium into a plastic membrane. Chris Kruppe, '13, hopes to take the next step as he begins to work toward a plan to form the nanoparticles into cube shapes.

Kruppe, a Naperville, Ill., native who is getting a serious look as the starting catcher for the baseball team, will take a weekend off the diamond in late March to attend the American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in San Diego where he will present a poster about the beginning of his work in the lab.

"Dr. Metz is known for using coffee as a reductant in the reaction to actually make the nanoparticles," Kruppe said. "I'll be reporting on the better yields of synthesizing nanoparticles at room temperature from the polyphenols in coffee as opposed to the use of polyols where you have to boil the solution, taking more energy to make these nanoparticles."

Finding the right mix for a schedule that includes a demanding chemistry major, time in the lab, and preparing to play a new position on the diamond (Kruppe started 26 games in the outfield during the 2011 season) is a challenge for every student-athlete, but the juggling act isn't new to the Albion baseball program. Jacob Rinkinen, '11, a starting pitcher, missed games last season to make a presentation at the American Society of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Conference.

"Having a coach like Scott Carden, who understands it is a whole other animal to balance a hard science major and trying to play a sport, [is essential]," Kruppe said. "It is about losing some sleep [when baseball is in season], and I wouldn't be able to make it work if I wasn't passionate about it. Baseball was my life for a long time until I got to college and I found myself at Albion."

If his application for funding through the College's Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity is accepted, Kruppe will stay on campus in June and July for further work on the project, which he hopes will yield additional findings in time for the 2013 ACS meeting as well as Albion's Elkin Isaac Student Research Symposium.

Chris Kruppe has a concentration in environmental science in addition to his chemistry major.
Chris Kruppe has a concentration in environmental science in addition to his chemistry major.

"Nanoparticles naturally want to be spheres, but to change the shape we're putting it under kinetic conditions, whether that's changing the temperature of the reaction or adding a different substrate to the reaction," Kruppe said. "The real-world application is these different shapes – whether they be spheres, cubes, or triangular plates – change the reactivity and selectivity of chemical reactions. The eventual goal would probably be to understand how each of these shapes catalyzes different reactions. Right now, however, the goal is making a protocol for the best method of making these catalysts to form nanoparticles in different shapes.

"The research for shaped nanoparticles, especially onto direct substrates, is very limited," Kruppe added. "I also have a concentration in environmental science and one of the research experiences for undergraduates I applied for this summer is how these nanoparticles – these pieces of metal in nano size – affect the environment."

While Kruppe is laying the foundation for graduate work in chemistry through his research at Albion, he is open as far as where his eventual career may lead.

"I'm not exactly sure what I want to do and I'm not sure what my ultimate goal in terms of a job is. I range anywhere from wanting to be a biochemist who works on muscle efficiency in athletes to what I'm doing right now that I find very interesting. The thing I might get out of attending the ACS meeting is finding something that interests me because I feel naïve to some things in chemistry. The field of chemistry is fascinating because there are so many things you can do in the subject."