Peru, Nebraska – Delaney Patocka, a Peru State senior biochemistry major (Mead, NE) co-authored a research article that has been published in the June 2023 Optical Materials journal, an International Journal on the Physics and Chemistry of Optical Materials and their Applications, including Devices. During the summer of 2022, the research was conducted as part of the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program offered at the University of South Dakota (USD). 

The REU program supports active participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation. In March of 2022, Patocka applied for the SPACT (security printing and anti-counterfeiting technology) area of research. She became aware of the program through Dr. Nathan Netzer, associate professor of Chemistry at Peru State. Netzer completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at USD.  He was familiar with the program and the faculty. Patocka was informed about her acceptance in early May. She received a stipend to cover living expenses and research supplies. She moved to Vermillion, South Dakota, in late May of 2022. The ten-week program started on June 1, 2022. 

Throughout her ten weeks at USD, Patocka worked under Dr. Chaoyang Jiang. Jiang had been Netzer’s advisor and mentor while at USD. Patocka said, “Jiang and the cohort of students she worked with were very hospitable and helpful. They welcomed me like family and taught me so much.”

Patocka and her cohort immersed themselves in daily research to determine a solid-state synthesis of a photoluminescent material to put on anti-counterfeiting labels. The results they were searching for took ten weeks. 

“It helped me see what a Ph.D. experience could be like,” said Patocka, who plans to pursue her Doctor of Pharmacy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center after graduating from Peru State. “It brought me into research experience tremendously, broadened my experience as a researcher, and helped me mature tremendously.”

The results of the cohort’s research became the topic of the article, Manganese-doped zinc germanate phosphors with vivid luminescent properties for anti-counterfeit applications. The article was co-authored by Zishen (Shawn) Yang (Patocka’s mentor throughout the program), Levi D. Spencer, Anjaneyulu Putta, Erin E. Schnetzer, Jon Kellar, Chaoyang Jiang, and Patocka. It credits Patocka’s affiliation with the Department of Natural Science at Peru State College.

Patocka recognized the significance of publishing the article as an undergraduate student. 

“I’m very proud of the accomplishment,” said Patocka. “It is a big step as a female scientist in a male-dominated field like chemistry.” Patocka continued, “I am where I am because of those who have mentored me.

“I feel as though I wouldn’t be the scientist, I am today without people like Dr. Netzer, Dr. Jiang, Shawn (Yang), and Dr. Dennis Welsh (professor of chemistry at Peru State). They always have answers to my questions, and I can always go to them.”  

Netzer, in turn, praised Patocka. “Delaney is an extremely hard worker, scientist, and student,” said Netzer, “and I am very proud of what she accomplished at USD.”

Patocka is thankful for the REU experience. “I am incredibly grateful for the experience,” said Patocka. “I made lifelong friends and am incredibly grateful for the connections and relationships that were made.”

Nestled in the hills of historic southeast Nebraska, Peru State College offers a mix of innovative online and traditional classroom undergraduate and graduate programs, including online graduate degrees in education and organizational management.

Established in 1867 as Nebraska’s first college, Peru State has transformed over the past century and a half into a state-of-the-art institution offering diverse, multifaceted educational programs annually to nearly 2,000 students.