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Chemistry and Biochemistry Research Areas

  • Analytical Chemistry is the study and development of methods for determining the composition of materials and substances. Analytical chemists often use sophisticated instrumentation to measure the concentration of various components in a mixture, they explore the limits of measurement of different techniques and evaluate the reliability and reproducibility of different instruments and processes. Analytical chemistry also involves the development of new methods and instrumentation that take advantage of what are sometimes very small differences in the chemical and physical properties of analytes to allow their separation, differentiation, and quantification. Analytical chemists also work to optimize analytical systems and methods to minimize errors. Computers and robots are used extensively in analytical chemistry to aid in the analysis of large numbers of samples and to minimize the errors associated with sampling and data recording and analysis.

    Featured Faculty Research

  • Biochemistry is the study of the chemical processes occurring in living systems. It uses the methods of molecular biology, immunology, chemistry, physics, and neurochemistry to study the structure of the complex molecules found in biological material and the ways that these molecules interact. We find ourselves in an era of tremendous opportunity to apply the tools and knowledge of biochemistry to problems in medicine, agriculture, forensics, environmental sciences, and many other fields. Often biochemistry is a collaborative field, requiring biochemists to work and communicate with professionals from a variety of disciplines to achieve their goals. Earning an advanced degree in biochemistry allows students to integrate and strengthen scientific knowledge, develop their professional and scientific skills, and contribute new knowledge to existing fields.

    Featured Faculty Research

    • Carol Chrestensen, Ph.D. »
    • Michael Van Dyke, Ph.D. »
    • Glen Meades, Ph.D. - Bioluminescence is the production of light by an organism through an oxidation-reduction reaction catalyzed by the enzyme generically termed luciferase utilizing a substrate generically referred to as a luciferin. Light production via chemical reactions has evolved more than forty times in Earth's history, among diverse species using different chemical mechanisms. While the substrates of the reaction vary: FMNH2 and long chain aliphatic aldehyde (bacteria), ATP and O2 (fireflies), tetrapyrrole (dinoflagellates), illudins (fungi), and imidazopyrazinones (squid and shrimp); the production of light via the decay of an electron from an excited state to ground state of the luciferin substrate remains the same. Slight changes in the microenvironment of the luciferin can modulate the wavelength of visible light emitted, some as energetic as 440 nm (blue), many producing 560 nm (green) light, and red-shifted variants at 612 (orange-red) and 675 (near-infrared). In our laboratory, faculty-guided research of skilled undergraduate students seeks to more fully understand the subtleties of interaction between luciferase and luciferin substrate that determine the frequency of light emitted. Using the North American firefly (Photinus pyralis) or the bacterium Vibrio fischeri luciferase genes cloned into E. coli, students have generated systems amenable to site-directed mutagenesis and use of substrate analogs able to produce bioluminescent E. coli of various colors.
  • Chemical Education research encompasses investigations into any facets related to student learning of chemistry. Studies in this field can focus on the preparation of teachers or the activities of teachers in establishing an effective learning environment. Other studies may examine the role of students in the classroom, such as examining factors that relate to success in the class or students' previous conceptions which may hinder success. Finally, studies may develop or examine learning materials, such as textbooks, lab activities or student assessments.

    Featured Faculty Research

    • Kimberly (Linenberger) Cortes, Ph.D. »
    • Michelle Head, Ph.D. - Currently my research group is focused in investigating the following areas: Due to the growing need to quality high school chemistry teachers, a strategic recruitment plan has been developed to recruit high school and early college students in to the chemistry education degree track at KSU. The effects of this plan are being investigated with regards to determine how an early teaching experience, student involvement in leading a science summer camp, influences these students to pursue this degree track and ultimately a career in as a chemistry teacher. Further investigations will also explore the level of support students need during their induction years to persist in this career.

      There is a growing need among high school chemistry curriculums to teach the conceptual basis of chemistry through the use of models. The AP Chemistry Framework and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) call on students to be able to construct, revise, and use models to explain chemistry phenomenon. This is a shift from what students were required to do under previous standards. Therefore, work is currently being done to investigate how modeling is being incorporated in high school chemistry classrooms and how teachers are building a culture for modeling. We are also gathering exemplars of model-based lessons. Future work in this area will investigate how high school students construct and make sense of chemistry models.

      General Chemistry is often considered a high-risk course due the DFW rate. The type of chemistry instruction at the college-level is often a stark contrast to what students have been exposed to in high school. Therefore, there is a need to bridge this gap to allow general chemistry students an opportunity to adjust and excel in this subject. The effects of a targeted learning community in general chemistry (TLC-GC) are currently being investigated. This learning community pairs a first-year seminar with General Chemistry I. The purpose of this project is to study the outcomes associated with participation in this community which includes curricular and co-curricular supports such as: tailored first-year seminar instruction in self-regulation and study strategies for the sciences and exposure to career and undergraduate research opportunities while allowing the students to build a support system and relationships with their peers, peer leaders, and professors that are catalyzed by their involvement in the larger learning community.
  • Inorganic Chemistry involves the synthesis and characterization of inorganic and organometallic compounds, and the study of their chemical and physical properties. Inorganic chemistry includes the study of development of inorganic and organometallic materials to be used as catalysts in chemical reactions, the study of metals and their interactions in biological systems, the fate and transport of metals and non-metals in the environment, the development of new energy storage materials, the development of new organometallic catalysts and reactants important in synthetic routes to biologically active compounds, and the chemistry of minerals.

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  • Organic Chemistry is the study of the structure, physical properties, and chemical reactions of carbon-containing compounds. Examples include the investigation of reaction mechanisms and catalysis, the development of new tactics and strategies for synthesizing molecules, both simple and complex, the examination of structure/activity and structure/reactivity relationships, and the development of new materials with novel properties and applications. Organic compounds include peptides, proteins, sugars, nucleic acids, and most pharmaceutical compounds. Particularly active areas in contemporary organic chemistry are the study of the interactions of such molecules with one another and the development of new compounds for application in medical and other biological contexts.

    Featured Faculty Research

    • Kevin Gwaltney, Ph.D. »
    • John Haseltine, Ph.D. »
    • Daniela Tapu, Ph.D. »
    • Christopher W. Alexander, Ph.D. - Organophosphorus Chemistry: Synthetic Methodology Development & Application. The focus of our research is the development of new methodologies for the syntheses of α-acylphosphonates (α-keto- and α-carbamoyl-phosphonates), and α-hydroxyphosphonates (Figure 1). Derivatives of these organophosphorus compounds are attractive targets because of their demonstrated pharmaceutical and commercial applications (e.g., Figure 2; anti-viral, antiobotic, and anti-osteoporsis drugs; and a herbicide). Therefore, our intent is to screen novel phosphonates that we synthesize for their possible anti-microbial activity and other commercial uses. Additionally, the pedagogical goal is to teach undergraduate and MS-level students advanced organic chemistry and laboratory skills.
  • Physical Chemistry involves the study of chemical systems including gases, liquids, and solid materials, and the development of mathematical and physical methods to explain and predict how and why they behave the way they do. This can involve the study of how energy flows in chemical systems and how and why the composition and structures of these systems evolve in time. Physical chemistry seeks to understand the forces and interactions occurring at very small scales and very short times and how these influence and drive the behavior of macroscopic systems. Physical chemistry is typically divided into a few broad areas of study: thermodynamics and equilibrium, chemical kinetics, quantum mechanics and spectroscopy, and statistical thermodynamics.

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