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Department of Chemistry

Research Projects

Science is exploratory in nature; therefore students in the chemistry program are required to be involved in research or an internship.  We believe that it is essential for students to explore and apply their classroom knowledge to projects.  On occasion, the classroom setting provides students with a false sense of the process of experimentation.  In reality, not all experiments work as planned.  In fact some innovations are the result of a failed experiment and would never have occurred if exploration was not encouraged.

Faculty in the department of chemistry work with students to design and develop a project to fit their interests and the resources available to them.  In several cases, projects are interdisciplinary requiring students to work with faculty in biology, chemistry, and environmental science.  A few of the sample projects and students who are currently or have been involved in projects:

Alkyne metathesis in ionic liquids

As concerns for developing a sustainable environment grow both nationally and globally, there is an increasing need to evaluate, improve, and/or discontinue existing chemical processes. One green chemistry-based approach towards increasing eco-sustainability involves the substitution of room temperature ionic liquids (RTILs) for traditional organic solvents. This has the potential to increase the recyclability of the reaction medium while decreasing the release of harmful volatile organic compounds. Research in the Geyer Lab with undergraduate students, Lauren Mey, Talitha Frecker, and CeCelia Baumgartner has focused on the use of ionic liquids as a medium for alkyne metathesis.

Beta-diketonato sensitizers

Lanthanide ions are used for a variety of applications including chromophors for light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and fluorescent labels in biochemistry.  Pamela Lord in collaboration with Dr. Ana de Bettencourt-Dias has pursued the synthesis of b-diketonato ligands and exploration of their sensitization of europium, terbium, and thulium.  Vanessa Simpson (M.S., Vanderbilt University) has also worked with Dr. Ana de Bettencourt-Dias.  This project continues at USF (Audrey Miller, Nate James) today.

Lead in mussel shells

Freshwater mussels are an indication of the quality of water.  Zachary Beiswanger, in collaboration with Warren Pryor and Dr. Jean Elick developed a method to sample mussel shells.  Once samples of the shells were collected, they were dissolved and analysis by Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AA Spectroscopy) was utilized to determine the amount of lead and copper in the given shells.  This project can be further developed and shells from various locations in Northern Indiana can be compared and evaluated for effects overtime and location.    

BTEX in Brownfield Site

A section of land currently occupied by the Rolland Art Center at the University of Saint Francis was believed to be contaminated with diesel fuels (BTEX).  The soil from the area was moved to a site on campus for further remediation.  Nick Swanson, Emily Ottenweller (University of Notre Dame) and Anya Kutsenok (IU Medical School) endeavored to determine the degree to which the soil had been remediated.  In collaboration with Sr. Carol Meyers, Dr. Gary Bard and Dr. Jean Elick, they studied methods for the determination of BTEX in soil and designed initial protocols for the collection of samples.  Samples would then be analyzed using gas chromatography and compared over time for changes in the composition of BTEX in the soil.