Department of Chemistry at Illinois State University

Faculty Position in Biochemistry Available for Fall 2016

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The faculty of the Department of Chemistry includes some of Illinois State University's most renowned teachers and researchers. Since 2000, Chemistry faculty have received nearly 20 teaching awards and nearly 20 research awards, including the 2009 Illinois Professor of the Year award.
Over $2 Million in active grants supports diverse areas such as forensics, nanotechnology, organic synthesis, education, materials chemistry, and biochemistry.
The Chemistry Department is home to more than 150 undergraduates, 30 graduate students, and 22 faculty members.

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Chemistry News

Super Science Family Night

Don’t miss the Children’s Discovery Museum’s annual Science Night on Friday, March 27, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. – a family event for budding scientists of all ages!  Visit a variety of stations that will be bubbling over with hands-on, interactive experiments and activities demonstrated by CDM staff and ISU science clubs and students.  They will also be welcoming back to Normal former ISU professors Otis Rothenberger and Jim Webb and their chemistry road show:  “Is it Chemistry or Magic?”  Observe as they present exciting chemical reactions that will blow a Styrofoam cup to smithereens, make water in a glass disappear and much more!  Pre-register for express entry!  Children must be accompanied by a paying adult.  Cost is $4 for members and $11 for non-members.

New Weapons for Lab Detectives
Associate Professor of Analytical Chemistry Christopher C. Mulligan observes student Adam O’Leary

Associate Professor of Analytical Chemistry Christopher C. Mulligan observes student Adam O’Leary

Christopher Mulligan, associate professor of analytical chemistry, is making strides toward developing cutting-edge instrumentation for chemical detection in his lab at Illinois State University. The application of his work is broad, ranging from detecting contamination in water – such as pharmaceuticals and pesticides – to improving crime scene forensics. One of his discoveries, coined as thermally-assisted desorption electrospray ionization, resulted from a grant-funded project five years in the making that will test water samples much more quickly than the current technology available. The new way of testing water will not only be quicker and cheaper, it will allow more experiments to be done, per unit of water, and will ultimately allow testing at the site of the contamination. Dr. Mulligan also researches methods to identify chemicals found at crime scene investigations. To read more about Dr. Mulligan’s research, please see:

NSF Grant to Dr. Lisa Szczepura

lfszczeWith the help of a more than $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Szczepura and her team are developing new ways for chemists to study metal complexes. The goal of this NSF grant is to formulate ways to study metal clusters containing carbenes, or neutral molecules that have two unshared electrons that can bond to another molecule. Her team, which began work this summer, identifies how carbenes bond to clusters and how the carbene influences the reactivity of the cluster. To view the entire article, please visit:



CAS News

New Inorganic Chemistry Textbook Published

51MLnFJRkeL._SX389_BO1,204,203,200_James E. House, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Illinois State University, and Kathleen A. House, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Illinois Wesleyan University, have just had the third edition of Descriptive Inorganic Chemistry published by the Academic Press Division of Elsevier, Amsterdam. The hardcover book was released on October 1, and it is intended to be a textbook for a one-semester inorganic course that is usually taught at the sophomore level.

Jim taught a variety of courses in inorganic and physical chemistry for 32 years at ISU. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Southern Illinois University and the Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He has authored almost 150 publications in chemistry journals, many dealing with reactions in solid materials, as well as books on chemical kinetics, quantum mechanics, and inorganic chemistry. He was elected Professor of the Year in 2011 by the student body at Illinois Wesleyan University, where he is an adjunct professor.

Kathy received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Illinois State University and the Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has taught at Illinois Wesleyan University for over 20 years, and her interests lie in chemical education, environmental chemistry, and inorganic chemistry.

Lash Receives $320,000 NSF Grant
photo of Timothy Lash

Timothy Lash

Tim Lash and his students are on the hunt for what some call the impossible, with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF). A professor of chemistry at Illinois State, Lash recently received a three-year NSF grant for $320,000 to continue the exploration of the building blocks of nature, known as porphyrins.

“They really provide the colors of nature,” said Lash, noting the structure of porphyrin compounds gives the world some familiar hues. Hemoglobin gives blood its red color, and assists in carrying oxygen to the body. Another type of porphyrin, known as chlorin, gives plants their green tint, and assists with photosynthesis. “In fact, the term porphyrin comes from the Greek word for purple, because when porphyrins crystalize, they take on a purple color. It’s really quite pretty.”

Lash, who has been studying porphyrins for more than 30 years, leads a team of undergraduate and graduate students in breaking down porphyrins, and creating new compounds for chemists around the globe.

Though there are applications for porphyrins—from fighting parasites to cutting-edge cancer therapy—Lash glories in students discovering theoretical concepts in chemistry. “The goal is to have students synthesize new molecules to see what properties they have. We may even create things no one has ever seen before.”

Channeling the mysteries of alchemists of old, Lash and his team look to replace elements in molecules and see how they react. They might be challenged to place metals such as iron or magnesium in the porphyrins, or replace the standard nitrogen with carbon. They even hope to find a way to do what others say cannot be done.

“Porphyrins have four nitrogen atoms. We have been able to replace two of those nitrogens with carbons,” said Lash, his voice laced with a conspiratorial tone. “We would love to be able to replace all four. That would make it a quatryin— the holy grail for porphyrin chemists – breaking down the porphyrin and replacing it with different elements in a way that no one else has been able to do.”

Lash admits the difficulty in explaining his work to non-chemists. “Sometimes the journey is more important than the end result,” he said. “People do ask about the applications, but there are times it is just really interesting chemistry.”

The fact that porphyrins are essential to life on earth does help, noted Lash, but there are times terminology gets in the way. “There is an argument in porphyrin chemistry that an 18-atom pathway results in the observed aromaticity,” said Lash, before he stopped with a sigh. “Of course, ‘aromatic’ makes it sound like it smells nice. But some aromatic compounds have a foul odor, or none at all. However, as many of these compounds are found in nature, scientists centuries ago associated them with spices and other nice-smelling things.” Lash chuckled. “Ah well, chemists don’t mind. We know what we mean.”

Getting students to know what chemists mean is the goal of the grant, added Lash, as well as finding new paths. “We want them to push things further, to try something no one else has done, and then see what happens.”

More CAS News

Chair's Message

Welcome to the Department of Chemistry!
Craig McLauchlanAt Illinois State, you will have an experience unlike almost any other chemistry department in the country. Our program combines the best of facilities and resources of a large research university with the personal, supportive environment of a small liberal arts college or university. The faculty is made up of individuals that could be successful at large research universities, but have a love of both teaching and research. Three of the past five years a chemistry professor has been named the Outstanding University Teacher. Come to visit us! You will quickly discover why Illinois State Chemistry should be your college home.

Craig C. McLauchlan, Interim Chair


November 27, 2015


December 5, 2015

Josh Jarodsky of the Illinois State University Department of Chemistry will present a seminar entitled, “A Solution for an Agave Problem:  The Bioremediation of Agriculture Waste Products by Yeast Fermentations,” at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, December 5, 2015, in Julian 225.

More seminar dates