Department of Chemistry at Illinois State University

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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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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.  http://www.childrensdiscoverymuseum.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Super-Science-Family-Night.pdf

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: http://mediarelations.illinoisstate.edu/report/1415/nov18/mulligan.asp

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: http://mediarelations.illinoisstate.edu/report/1415/aug26/carbenes.asp

 

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CAS News

Main Street College to Feature Hitchcock
Shawn R. Hitchcock

Shawn R. Hitchcock

Next week’s Main Street College event will feature Professor Shawn R. Hitchcock of the Department of Chemistry. His presentation, titled “Public Health Concerns in Drugs, Foods, and Vaccines: Where are we now?” will be on Monday, April 13, at 7 p.m. in the ISU Alumni Center on North Main Street. Main Street College events are free and designed especially for the public. The series was created by Dean Simpson in 2014 to share the exciting work being done across the College of Arts and Sciences with the public.

There is an ever increasing amount of scientific and
technological information delivered to the public through traditional
news sources, social media, and blogs. The talk is designed to help the average person make informed decisions on foods they eat and the drugs and vaccines they take. More importantly, Hitchcock hopes the audience will leave the presentation as critical thinkers who question the information they hear in the media regarding these issues. The historical evolution of the government agencies that are responsible for managing our food, drugs, and vaccines will also be covered. By recognizing how these agencies have evolved and the stories that emerge in the news, the larger picture at to why these topics remain hot-button issues can be understood.

 

New Weapons for Lab Detectives
photo of Christopher Mulligan and Adam O’Leary

Christopher Mulligan and 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.

Mulligan explained, “As more and more new medicines and chemicals become available for public use, the more difficult it becomes to detect these potential contaminants in water sources and aquatic environments.”

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. “Traditional testing methods for water contaminants involve transporting three or more liters of water, per test, to an off-site lab for analysis,” said Mulligan. “This becomes expensive to ship the samples themselves, and the time involved for the testing could take hours, if not days. Our method can take as little as one minute and one milliliter of water.”

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. “In a couple of years, we will eventually be able to go on location,” said Mulligan. He pointed out that he looks forward to seeing the fruit of his labor when the technology is out there being used.

Mulligan has two patents regarding this work and is in the process of working with Illinois State University Patent Officer Cory Abernathy for licensing. ”Hopefully someone will be interested in commercializing these prototypes, and Cory will help with this,” said Mulligan. “It’s great to be able to talk to someone who is well versed in this and can tell me what I need to do. Cory is a great addition to the University.”

Crime scene investigation and forensics is another passion of Mulligan’s. He and his student-based research team have been working on cutting-edge tools for use in crime scene investigations through funding from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). Specifically, they are developing portable mass spectrometers that allow chemical identification of evidence found in any state – solid, liquid, gas or solution.

Student Adam O’Leary utilizes the portable mass spectrometer to test unknown white powders provided by the Iowa State Police.

“This new technology would allow evidence screening to occur rapidly right at a crime scene rather than be shipped off for analysis at off-site forensics labs, expediting criminal investigations and assessing potential public safety concerns,” explained Mulligan. “TV shows like CSI are notorious for using a bit of movie magic when it comes to depicting the technologies available to forensic investigators. We are working hard to actually make these futuristic tools for the people who are tasked with keeping us safe.”

This could also be beneficial in homeland security and environmental monitoring applications. “Our instrumentation is well suited to fulfill the needs of first responders and homeland security personnel. We have done studies on chemical warfare agent simulants and other threats to demonstrate this ability. Also, explosives and related compounds could be measured. The portable nature of our instrumentation would have high utility in this area,” explained Mulligan.

Mulligan and his team have examined authentic forensic evidence in the past, both in a proof of principle way to see if their instrument could actually work towards an application and also as part of on-going investigations. “We have worked with the Iowa State Police to look at seized white powders (cocaine and methamphetamine), and we were able to test our instrumentation in a mock clandestine methamphetamine lab under DEA supervision,” he said. “Other interesting forensic studies can be done, as well. For example, we can test a fingerprint and know immediately what the suspect has touched – a few examples of chemicals found might be illegal drugs, nicotine from a cigarette or a certain cologne,” he said.

To date, Mulligan’s group is the only academic laboratory that utilizes and maintains this specific instrumentation. Recently, his research program was included in the “success stories” from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) grantee projects that the NIJ acting director utilizes when briefing non-scientists. Mulligan is in the process of exploring other potential patents in forensic chemical analysis.

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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

Seminars

September 4, 2015

labor day 2015NO SEMINAR – LABOR DAY WEEKEND

September 9, 2015

ACS 2The Illinois Heartland Section of the American Chemical Society will present “Process Optimization and Analytical Testing in the Fuel Ethanol Industry” by Stacy Swanson, Central Regional Quality Manager, Pacific Ethanol, Inc., at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 9, 2015, in Julian 225.

September 11, 2015

Dr. T. Andrew Mitchell of the Illinois State University Department of Chemistry will present a seminar entitled, “Exploration of [5+2] Cycloadditions toward Novel Heterocyclic Scaffolds,” at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, September 11, 2015, in Julian 225.

September 18, 2015

Dr. Craig McLauchlan of the Illinois State University Department of Chemistry will present a seminar entitled, “Versatile Vanadium:  Coordination Complexes in Biology and Materials,” at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, September 18, 2015, in Julian 225.

September 25, 2015

Calvin Quilty of the Illinois State University Department of Chemistry will present a seminar entitled, “Synthesis and Characterization of Rare-Earth Free Doped Sr3MO4F Anti-Perovskite with Application to LED Lighting,” at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, September 25, 2015, in Julian 225.

October 2, 2015

Mark Servos of the Illinois State University Department of Chemistry will present a literature seminar on Friday, October 2, 2015, in Julian 225.

More seminar dates