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Student Research

Why research?Nicholas Harriel

The bedrock of science is experimentation and observation. Research cannot be taught; it must be done. Undergraduate student research is an important link between the classroom and graduate school research and is a key ingredient in the training of scientists.

Undergraduate student research under the supervision of a chemistry professor allows students to work on real scientific problems. Students experience the difficulties of devising and performing experiments to probe the unknown. They are given the opportunity to taste the thrill of discovery and to share their work through presentations at the American Chemical Society, the Tennessee Academy of Science, the APSU Research Forum, and similar meetings of scientists.

2017 Symposium Presenters and Faculty
Students presenters at the Chemistry Department's 2017 Spring Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Chemistry Research Classes

Chemistry 2940: Introduction to Research- Lecture

Chemistry 2941: Introduction to Research- Laboratory

Chemistry 4941: Elements of Research

Chemistry 4990: Research Thesis

Current Research Topics

Some of the current research topics or areas are briefly described below. For more information visit the homepage of the instructor or contact the instructor via the e-mail address provided.

Dr. Carrie Brennan
Electrochemistry, environmental chemistry, glass thin films

Dr. Leslie Hiatt
Her group is working to develop an assay for the detection of nicotine in complex e-cigarette samples using electrochemistry and colorimetry. This assay could be used commercially to help small stores demonstrate the quality of their product. They are also using high performance liquid chromatography and gas chromatography with nicotine calibration curves to quantitatively analyze the quality control of electronic cigarettes. In conjunction with Dr. Mann, they are also working to synthesize new carotenoids with fast electron transfer properties. After these new compounds are made, instrumental analysis on these products will be performed, to see if these new molecules could be incorporated into electrochromic devices as a faster and more energy efficient technology.

Dr. Meagan Mann
Dr. Mann’s research lies in the field of chemical toxicology. Her students do research on essential oils, the medical claims made by the essential oil industry, and toxicological effects of essential oils. Projects have included studying the estrogenic effects of lavender oil on MCF-7 breast cancer cells and, more recently, analyzing the essential oil of frankincense to determine whether boswellic acids, molecules known for their anti-cancer properties, are found in the oil as well as the resin. Pedagogical projects include presentation of environmental toxicity and the ethics it entails to organic chemistry students as well as novel lab experiments to teach multifaceted organic chemistry concepts.

Dr. Fred Matthews
Studying Fischer esterification producing various hexyl acetates, followed by physical and spectroscopic analyses, especially 1D and 2D NMR studies. The products will be identified using bp, refractive index, GLC, GCMS, IR, plus PMR, CMR, GATEDEC, DEPT45, DEPT90, DEPT135, DEPTQ135, COSY, HSQC and HMBC NMR experiments.

Dr. Anuradha Pathiranage
She is interested in extraction, isolation and characterization of compounds from medicinal plants. Her group is working on extracting compounds from cinnamon bark using distillation and chromatography techniques. Then they will characterize isolated compounds using NMR and IR instruments.

Dr. Robin Reed
His research interests are in protein kinases and proteins that may bind to specific kinases in the cell. These enzymes catalyze the transfer of the g-phosphate from ATP to specific serine, threonine or tyrosine residues of target proteins. Of particular interest are the cyclic-nucleotide dependent protein kinases, PKA and PKG, and their involvement in signal transduction pathways. One technique used to isolate proteins that bind to PKA or PKG is cAMP-agarose chromatography. Student researchers in his lab have recently verified that one such cAMP-agarose binding protein is the Nucleoside Diphosphate Kinase (NDPK) that is responsible for shifting phosphate groups among various phosphorylated forms of the nucleotides. His group is now trying to determine the number of subunits it has in its natural complex state. They are using Western blotting, column chromatography and native gel electrophoresis to accomplish this goal.

Dr. Marcia Schilling
She is interested in a cross disciplinary approach to environmental remediation. The long-term goals are to develop methods of returning wastes to their original environmental niche or finding useful new applications for waste materials. She is currently developing a proteomics pipeline to indicate distinctions in protein profiles of closely related biological samples. In doing so, she hopes this strategy can be used in sentinel organisms to detect areas in need of soil remediation after chemical contamination, as well as providing supporting mass spectrometry data for colleagues in departments across the APSU campus.

Dr. Lisa Sullivan
Her group is investigating a low temperature synthesis of zirconium tungstate (ZrW2O8) which shows isotropic negative thermal expansion. Prepared nano-particulate ZrW2O8 will be incorporated into a polymer thin film to give a composite material that has controllable thermal expansion. They are also investigating a novel synthetic preparation of nanoparticulate silver and studying the antimicrobial efficacy of prepared samples.

Dr. Will Ward
He is interested in energy storage in chemical bonds in support of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy that are intermittent in nature. Specifically, he is researching electro-catalytic reduction of small molecules, especially carbon dioxide, using zinc hydride complexes. Projects include synthesis of organic cage ligands and zinc complexes, investigation of the electronic and catalytic properties and trends of these ligands, calculation of the hydricity of these complexes using experimental data and thermodynamic cycles, and investigation of small molecule binding, activation and reactivity with the zinc complexes. His group is currently synthesizing ligands and zinc transition metal complexes to be tested as electro-catalysts and/or photo-catalysts for CO2 reduction.

Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

Summer is an excellent time to do research. Summer REU's can be applied toward your APSU chemistry degree.  The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds many research opportunities at schools across the United States. To find NSF funded REUs that you can apply for, check out this link: NSF REUs. Contact any chemistry faculty for more information about applying to these programs.

Undergraduate Research Enrichment Funds Program

The Undergraduate Research Enrichment Funds have replaced the Presidential Research Scholars and Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Programs. The UREF Program provides up to $3000 to student-faculty teams in support of scholarly and creative activity.  Funds can be used to support project-related expenses (equipment, supplies, etc.), student stipend and/or travel, and up to $500 in professional development funds for the faculty mentor. Contact our department chair or chemistry faculty for more information.