A Patent for Innovation

Southeastern recently received its second U.S. patent in its 97-year history.


The patent was awarded to Southeastern in conjunction with Fort Hays State University, located in Hays, Kan., for use of pnictogenium compounds in carbon-carbon bond formation. A pnictogen is any of the chemical elements nitrogen, phosphorus, arsenic, antimony, and bismuth, belonging to group 5A of the periodic table.

The patent is the collaborative work of Benjamin F. Wicker, formerly of Southeastern, and Bruce A. Atwater, formerly of Fort Hays State University. Also working on the project was Skyler A. Markham, then an undergraduate student with Atwater and now a graduate student at Colorado State University.

The project began as an outgrowth of research into the applications of phosphonium compounds—compounds that incorporate a phosphorous atom that holds a formal positive charge. The initial attempt was to utilize the phosphonium compounds to 9069958522_3f7dc88167_ocreate “coordination complexes” that incorporate a metal center. Similar coordination complexes are used as catalysts for polymer manufacturing, medical treatments and imaging, and solar cell developments.

This research led to the development of phosphonium compounds known as “bipyridines.”

“You can imagine these compounds as two rings connected by a line, much like frames of eyeglasses, but without the part that goes over the ear. This was an exciting discovery for several reasons,” Wicker said. “First, the reaction involved carbon-carbon bond formation without the metal being directly involved, which is interesting to the academic sector. Second, bipyridines are used in the formation of many industrially relevant coordination complexes, which is interesting to the industrial sector. Third, the reaction takes place at low temperatures, for example, room temperature and lower, which is of great interest to the industrial sector. And finally, the bipyridines can be created asymmetrically, which is of very great interest to academic and industrial sectors.”

The last point is where the invention has the greatest potential, and since this reaction involved organic transformations, Atwater was enlisted for help in developing the technology further.

“As mentioned before, bipyridines are used throughout the chemical industry to create coordination complexes. However, one of their specialties is in generating complexes that are good at absorbing light and transmitting the energy via electron transfer, critical for solar cell applications for renewable energy sources,” Wicker explained. “Different bipyridines allow chemists to ‘tune’ complexes to absorb different wavelengths of light, making them more efficient and cost-effective for solar cells.”

Attempting to modify bipyridines asymmetrically—that is only changing one ring—to effect finer tuning or broader range of wavelengths is currently an expensive and challenging process.


“The lack of readily accessible asymmetric bipyridines means that there are no ‘bifocals’ for bipyridine complexes that are cost-effective for use on an industrial scale. With our invention, we install the pyridine rings onto the phosphonium individually, so the generation of asymmetric bipyridines are essentially as easy as making symmetric ones,” he said. “Combine this with the low temperature of the transformation, and this invention could become a source of asymmetric bipyridines for a whole host of industrial and medical applications.”


Sales Team Places in Top 2 in Bayou Sales Challenge

Southeastern’s Professional Sales Program held its Internal Role-Play Competition this semester on Friday, Feb. 3. Representatives from Northwestern Mutual, United Rentals, Cintas, Fastenal, Sherwin-Williams, Louisiana CAT, Republic Finance, Farm Bureau, Black Diamond, and other companies volunteered their time to assist in judging and playing the buyer roles for the competition. 

The sales team, including Colette Boudreaux, Zachary Delaunais, Isabella Distefano, Reed Godbery, Emily Stark, and Emily Wilson, moved on to compete at the regional competition, the Bayou Sales Challenge, Feb. 16 and 17 at Nicholls State University. Godbery, Stark, and Wilson made it to the semi-finals, and Stark was the competition’s winner. Southeastern placed 2nd overall to Florida State. 

The Professional Sales Program is run by marketing faculty member Dr. April Kemp and Dr. Tim Butler. For more information about the Sales Program, go to southeastern.edu/sales or email prosales@southeastern.edu

Above: Pictured front row, from left, are Isabella Distefano, Emily Stark, Emily Wilson, Colette Boudreaux, and April Kemp. On the back row, from left, are Gabe Pevey, Tim Butler, Reed Godbery, and Zachary Delaunais.

Cheer Takes Home National Championship

The Southeastern cheerleading squad won its second national championship, taking home the gold in the Open Coed Game Day competition at UCA/UDA College Nationals at the Walt Disney World Resort.

The win for SLU marks the second time in three years it has taken home the championship in the Open Coed Game Day, having previously earned a national title in 2021’s virtual competition. Southeastern spirit groups have won a total of four national championship golds in the past six years, as the Lionettes dance team won titles in the Division I Hip Hop category in 2018 and 2021.

“This was a special group that put in a lot of work outside of practice and it paid off,” Southeastern Spirit Coordinator Catherine Lawrence said. “We’re extremely proud of both groups for putting their best efforts forward on the mat and the floor when it counted.”

In addition to the gold medal, the cheerleaders also earned a bronze medal in the Division I Small Coed competition.

Southeastern spirit groups left Orlando with three medals to add to the trophy case, as the Lionettes earned a silver with a second-place showing in Division I Game Day. The runner-up performance was the highlight of a successful competition that also saw the SLU dance team finish 5th in Division I Small Coed and 12th in Division I Jazz.

At the Contemporary Art Gallery: 2023 Juried Student Exhibition

The SLU Contemporary Art Gallery is featuring the 2023 Juried Student Exhibition through April 5. It is juried by visual artist and ceramicist Chris Pate and designer Ofir Mizrahi.

Every year the Contemporary Art Gallery invites two jurors from our artistic community to Southeastern’s campus in order to select from a pool of submissions that reflect exemplary artwork made by our students. This year Pate and Mizrahi will select a variety of artworks ranging from area concentrations such as ceramics, drawing, graphic design, new media and animation, painting, photography, printmaking, and sculpture.

“The SLU Contemporary is dedicated to providing a platform for emerging artists to showcase their works,” said Gallery Director Cristina Molina. “In keeping with our mission, this exhibition provides an excellent opportunity for students to exhibit their artworks in a professional setting and have their artwork reviewed by two arts professionals.”

Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., and admission is free.

For more information about this exhibition, contact gallery director Cristina Molina via email at cmolina@southeastern.edu or by phone at 985-549-5080. To keep up with gallery events, visit southeastern.edu/slucontemporary and follow on Instagram @slu_contemporary.

About the jurors:
Chris Pate was born in Central, Louisiana, and graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2009 with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology and Anthropology, as well as an introduction to the ceramic arts. In 2010, he relocated to Portland, Oregon, and continued his investigations into clay, firing techniques, and kiln design. In 2012, Pate began wood-firing his work, which has since been the main mode of finishing his ceramic art.

After working with many various clay communities and firing dozens of wood fired kilns around the country, he moved back to Louisiana the summer of 2021. Since then, Pate has been working as the Technical Director of Byrdies’ Pottery in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans, designed and built a large Anagama style wood-fired kiln with a strong, budding firing community in Husser, Louisiana. He has been working to build community in New Orleans as well as regionally by sharing his knowledge and experience with atmospheric fired ceramics.

Ofir Mizrahi is a graphic designer based in New Orleans.
Ofir graduated from Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art (Tel Aviv, Israel) with a degree in Design and Visual Communications. Ofir has more than 12 years of experience in graphic design, and has worked for a variety of design studios and companies. In 2019, he started Ofir Design, a New Orleans-based design firm that specializes in branding, print, packaging and web design.