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Faculty Research Interests

Analytical Chemistry

  • Jeremy D. Driskell

    Jeremy D. Driskell

    Professor, Analytical Chemistry

    B.S. 2001, Truman State University; Ph.D. 2006, Iowa State University

    Research in the Driskell group focuses on the development of novel diagnostic and biological assays by integrating surface chemistry, nanomaterials, and biology. Our laboratory aims to exploit the optical properties of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) to develop biosensing platforms with an emphasis on surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) for detection. Work includes both applied research to develop innovative bioanalytical tools, as well as fundamental research to gain insight into the interactions of proteins with AuNPs to maximize the stability and biological activity of protein-AuNP conjugates.
  • Jun-Hyun Kim

    Jun-Hyun Kim

    Professor, Analytical/Nanomaterials

    B.S. 1995 and M.S. 2000, Keimyung University; Ph.D. 2005, University of Houston

    The research interests in the Kim group involve the development of various nano/micro-scale materials for two important applications: catalysis and drug delivery. In the area of catalysis, we are interested in the systematical synthesis of stable metal nanoparticles possessing tunable absorption properties and the examination of their photothermal heating efficiency as well as catalytic chemical reactions upon irradiation of a solar simulated light. In the area of drug delivery, we are developing a stimuli-responsive smart drug-delivery vehicle, which consists of multiple metal nanoparticles possessing a strong optical property and pH/temperature-sensitive polymer particles containing a high dose of drug molecules, for controlled delivery and release to avoid side-effects.
  • Christopher Mulligan

    Christopher Mulligan

    Professor, Analytical Chemistry

    B.S. 2003, Northern Illinois University; Ph.D. 2008, Purdue University

    Research in the Mulligan group is focused on developing rapid chemical detection methods using mass spectrometry for areas of public safety. We design and create “ambient” ionization techniques that can directly detect chemical species from samples of interest in their native environment. These novel ionization methods can be coupled with portable mass spectrometric instruments to allow on-site chemical analysis in an on-demand fashion. Rapid prototyping methods (e.g., 3D printing) and novel, polymeric materials are employed in our instrumentation development. Application areas of interest include environmental science/stewardship, forensic evidence analysis, homeland security, and quality control. The long-term goal of this research is to provide field researchers and the first-response communities with high performance, yet simple-to-use, methods for identifying and tracking harmful chemicals and emerging threats at the point of interest.


  • Jon A. Friesen

    Jon A. Friesen

    Professor, Biochemistry

    B.A. 1991, Bluffton University; Ph.D. 1996, Purdue University

    Research in the Friesen lab focuses on enzymes involved in biosynthesis of phosphatidylcholine. Recombinant DNA technology is utilized to produce the enzymes choline kinase and CTP: phosphocholine cytidylyltransferase. Following purification, enzyme kinetic studies are conducted to elucidate the mechanism of catalysis.

  • Marjorie A. Jones

    Marjorie A. Jones

    Professor, Biochemistry

    B.S. 1970, Central Michigan University; Ph.D. 1982, University of Texas; Health Science Center at San Antonio

    Leishmania parasitic protozoans infect more than 20-25 million people worldwide and some 350 million people are at risk since they live in areas where Leishmania are human pathogens. Such diseases can be expressed as skin infections, infections in the mucus membranes of mouth and throat, as well as infections in the internal organs. There are very few good therapies currently being used to treat human Leishmania diseases in part because the treatments are expensive, have severe side effects, and drug resistance is also developing. Thus a major area of research in the Jones Lab is the use of unique compounds as potential cytotoxic agents for Leishmania diseases and we test various compounds for their ability to affect the growth of these protozoans in culture. Using a non-human-pathogenic Leishmania tarentolae model system, microscopic changes in cell shape, size, and motility as well as analysis for cell viability are done following addition of compounds at various concentrations. We are working to determine the mechanism of cytotoxicity of the effective compounds by analyzing proteins, enzymes, and lipids affected. The long term goal is to develop these various classes of materials as selective pharmaceutical drugs to treat human Leishmania diseases.

  • Steven Peters

    Steven J. Peters

    Professor, Biochemistry/Physical/Organic Chemistry

    B.S. 1989 and M.S. 1990, Illinois State University; Ph.D. 1997, Indiana University

    Research interests in the Peters group involve the chemistry of free radicals and radical anions. We employ magnetic resonance techniques to explore the chemistry of these systems. My students and I have been looking at the electron-initiated addition of heteroallenes that result in the formation of stable trimer anion radicals. Two examples of heteroallenes investigated are isocyanates and isocyanurates; both are important in polymer chemistry.

Chemical Education

  • Sarah B. Boesdorfer

    Sarah B. Boesdorfer

    Associate Professor, Chemical Education

    B.S. 2002, University of Illinois; M.S. 2003, University of Wisconsin; Ed.D. 2012, Illinois State University

    The Boesdorfer group’s research interests involve chemistry teachers at all levels; how they alter and improve their practice, and what we can do to help and encourage improvements to their practice. Generally speaking, we research different learning experiences’ impacts on chemistry teachers’ classroom practices. Currently, the release of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and their adoption as state teaching standards have provided learning opportunities for teachers. Chemistry teachers’ responses to these standards, their interpretation, implementation, and impact has been the focus of some studies. In addition, we are interested in curricular developments for teaching chemistry, both to improve students’ understanding of chemistry but also in terms of its impact on chemistry teachers’ general classroom practices.
  • William J. F. Hunter

    William J. F. Hunter

    Professor, Chemical Education

    B.S. 1988, Mount Allison University; B.Ed. 1989 and M.A. 1994, Dalhousie University; Ph.D. 1998, Purdue University

    In general the Hunter group is interested in understanding the conditions under which beginning teachers of chemistry flourish when they enter the profession. Studies have focused on preservice secondary school science teachers as they prepare to enter the profession. We are also interested in how technology may be effectively used to teach chemistry. We are studying how curricular modifications are implemented by faculty in the University, and team-teaching in a secondary chemistry classroom.

Inorganic Chemistry

  • Gregory M. Ferrence

    Gregory M. Ferrence

    Professor, Inorganic Chemistry

    B.S. 1991, Indiana University of Pennsylvania; Ph.D. 1996, Purdue University

    Single-crystal small molecule X-ray crystallography is central to the research and scholarship in the Ferrence group. Projects range from ‘routine’ crystallography to examination of the structure of novel organic, metalorganic and organometallic compounds. Some projects focus on the unique structures of discrete molecules; other projects focus upon better understanding solid state intermolecular interactions in the context of crystal engineering; still others focus on utilization of crystallographic data in chemical education. We have examined structures of compounds containing main group, transition metal, lanthanide, and even actinide elements. We are actively investigating crystallographic aspects of quasiracemic mixtures of compounds. We are particularly interested in utilizing chemical information contained in the Cambridge Crystallographic Database to enhance students’ learning in chemistry coursework.
  • Christopher Hamaker

    Christopher G. Hamaker

    Associate Professor, Inorganic Chemistry

    B.S. 1993, E. Michigan University; Ph.D. 1999, Iowa State University

    Research in the Hamaker group is focused on coordination chemistry, catalysis, and crystal engineering. Our work bridges the traditional areas of organic and inorganic chemistry, with exposure to analytical techniques. Our first project is the development of novel ligands for coordination chemistry with possible environmental and catalytic applications. Our second project is the investigation of sulfonamides and their intermolecular interactions in the solid state using X-ray crystallography.
  • Lisa Szczepura

    Lisa F. Szczepura

    University Professor, Inorganic Chemistry

    B.S. 1989 and Ph.D. 1994, State University of New York at Buffalo

    Research in the Szczepura lab focuses on the chemistry of transition metal cluster complexes. We focus on coordinating new types of ligands to clusters of six metal atoms and subsequently study the reactivity and physical properties of the product complexes. All new complexes are fully characterized using various spectroscopic techniques (NMR, IR, UV-vis), as well as electrochemical and crystallographic techniques when suitable. Such fundamental studies on these supraoctahedral complexes are aimed at providing a better understanding of their chemistry in the hopes of one day designing new cluster complexes for specific applications, such as catalysis.

Organic Chemistry

  • Shawn R. Hitchcock

    Shawn R. Hitchcock

    Professor, Organic Chemistry

    B.S. 1990, Wayne State University; Ph.D. 1995, University of California, Davis

    Our research is focused on the development of heterocyclic compounds known as oxadiazinones in asymmetric organic synthesis. These compounds are hydrazino-homologs of the well-known oxazolidinone auxiliaries that have been successfully applied in reactions such as the aldol addition reaction, the Diels-Alder reaction, and conjugate addition. The presence of the additional nitrogen in the oxadiazinones allows for synthetic flexibility in designing these compounds as chiral auxiliaries or organocatalysts. We have employed these compounds as chiral auxiliaries in the asymmetric aldol addition reaction and the glycolate aldol addition reaction. Current targets in this work are arundic acid and a key fragment of hapalosin. In addition to these goals, our current efforts are focused on designing the oxadiazinones so that they can be used as organocatalysts. To this end, we are interested in pursuing organocatalytic transformations such as Friedel-Crafts alkylations, alpha-fluorination, and cycloaddition reactions to form isoxazolidines. We are also interested in extending the use of these compounds in the asymmetric Michael addition reaction to synthesized targets such rolipram, baclofen, and lyrica.
  • Timothy Lash

    Timothy D. Lash

    Distinguished Professor, Organic Chemistry

    B.S. 1975, University of Exeter; M.Sc. 1977 and Ph.D. 1979, University College, Cardiff, Wales

    The Lash laboratory is investigating the synthesis of porphyrins and related aromatic macrocycles. This work currently emphasizes the synthesis, characterization and reactivity of carbaporphyrins and structural analogues including azuliporphyrins, benziporphyrins, N-confused porphyrins and dicarbaporphyrinoids. These unique macrocyclic structures exhibit a broad range of characteristics and vary from nonaromatic to fully aromatic systems. Carbaporphyrinoids readily form stable organometallic complexes with Ni(II), Pd(II), Pt(II), Cu(III), Ag(III), Au(III), Rh(III) and Ir(III) and have the potential for applications in catalysis. Furthermore, novel regioselective oxidation reactions are being investigated and the resulting carbaporphyrin derivatives have been shown to exhibit valuable biological activity.
  • Andy Mitchell

    Andy Mitchell

    Professor, Organic Chemistry

    B.S., 2001, Grove City College (PA); Ph.D., 2008, Texas A&M University

    The Mitchell research group is focused on the development of novel synthetic methods and the total synthesis of biologically active natural products. The methods focus of our group is cycloadditions, more specifically oxidopyrylium-alkene [5+2] cycloadditions toward bridged polycyclic ethers. Many fascinating natural products such as polygalolide, toxicodenane, and hedyosumin contain a bridged ether and are uniquely accessible via oxidopyrylium-alkene [5+2] cycloadditions. As we continue to develop synthetic methodology, we will apply these methods toward the total synthesis of natural products. Finally, both natural and unnatural molecules synthesized in our lab will be tested for biological activity.
  • Richard Nagorski

    Richard W. Nagorski

    Professor, Organic Chemistry

    B.S. 1988, Brandon University; Ph.D. 1994, University of Alberta

    Carbinolamides are a functional group that are of increasing importance due to their presence in a growing number of compounds having interesting biological functions. Little is known about the reactivity of this functionality and our studies are designed to probe both the mechanism of reaction and catalysis for these compounds as a function of pH, [buffer], and [metal-ion]. The goal of the studies is to elucidate the reaction pathways of carbinolamides and carbinolamide derivatives with the outcome being a better understanding of their potential roles in bioactive compounds.

Physical Chemistry

  • Susil Baral

    Susil Baral

    Assistant Professor, Physical Chemistry

    B.S. 2007, Tribhuvan University; M.S. 2009, Tribhuvan University; Ph.D. 2017, Ohio University

    Research in our lab focuses on developing and applying single-molecule microscopy and spectroscopy techniques to understand the fundamental behavior of materials. In the first direction, we use magnetic tweezers microscopy to investigate the single-chain conformation and dynamics of the synthetic polymers to acquire knowledge for developing polymer materials with tailored mechanical properties. In the second direction, we use fluorescence microscopy to study the light-matter interactions in plasmonic nanoparticles to acquire knowledge for developing nanoscale materials with enhanced optical properties.
  • George Barnes

    George L. Barnes

    Professor and Chair, Physical/Computational Chemistry

    B.S. 2003, University of Nevada, Reno; Ph.D. 2008, University of Wisconsin – Madison

    Research in the Barnes group focuses on elucidating the dynamics of chemical reactions within tandem mass spectrometry.  We examine collision-induced association of interesting chemical species and the soft-landing process on surfaces.  Our molecular dynamics simulations reveal atomistic details concerning the reaction mechanism for fragmentation in these high-energy collision systems.  Subsequent ab initio calculations provide information concerning activation energies for the observed reaction pathways.  Our work has highlighted that proton motion and non-covalent complexes play a crucial role in the dynamics and the overall products formed during dissociation events.
  • Bhaskar Chilukuri

    Bhaskar Chilukuri

    Assistant Professor, Physical Chemistry

    Research in the Chilukuri lab involves studying molecular self-assembly and chemistry on ordered surfaces using experimental characterization and computational modeling. The projects are focused on investigating molecular interactions between adsorbate-adsorbate, adsorbate-substrate and harnessing them toward tunable molecular assembly. We also study surface supported metal-ligand coordination chemistry at the single molecule level. Additionally, we are interested in studying kinetics and thermodynamics of surface supported molecular assembly and reactions.  Research involves experimental characterization with techniques like scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), atomic force microscopy (AFM) and spectroscopy in variable environments. All experiments are performed in conjunction with multiscale modeling using quantum mechanical and molecular dynamics methodology.