Chemistry Department

Research

Summer Research Students 2013Have you ever wondered…

How particles affect climate?

How alcohol is toxic to the liver?

How laser light affects molecules?

How natural products are synthesized?

How green experiments are developed?

These and many other perplexing questions are being investigated every day at Hendrix College.
Explore below the diverse research projects being conducted in the Chemistry Department or
have a look at the research being conducted by our graduates.
 

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Dr. Andres Caro:  Biological Chemistry

The Caro Research Group is interested in the biochemical mechanisms by which alcoholic beverages produce liver damage.  We use cell fractions (endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria), cells (liver cells in culture), and experimental animals (mice), and analytical, biological, and cellular chemical techniques including HPLC, polarography, real time PCR, RT-PCR, ELISA, western blot, chemiluminescence, fluorimetry, spectrometry, flow cytometry, and fluorescence microscopy. 

Dr. Heidi Dahlmann: OrganicChemistry

The Dahlmann Research Group carries out organic chemistry inspired by molecules in nature. One project is synthesizing nucleoside analogs as probes for detecting DNA damage. Nucleophilic sites of DNA are frequently attacked by electrophilic genotoxins, creating covalently bound "DNA adduct" that can lead to mutation. Although there are several sensitive techniques for measuring total DNA adduct content, none of them can measure DNA adducts in specific DNA sequences. Our research focuses on developing non-natural nucleosides that can be inserted into oligonucleotide hybridization probes targeting specific DNA sequences. Our other major project is developing new organocatalyzed reactions. Many chemical reactions require catalysts to reach completion in a timely manner. Organocatalysts are special hydrogen-bonding species that can be safer, more effective, environmentally-friendlier alternatives to traditional Lewis acid catalysts. Our research focuses on identifying and optimizing chemical reactions facilitated by organocatalysts.       

Dr. Liz Gron: Analytical/InorganicChemistry

Dr. Gron’s research interests presently include environmental sampling of water and soil, development of undergraduate chemical educational materials: green analytical laboratories and scientific literacy, and the analysis of biologically relevant ions: hydrogen sulfide/garlic project    

Dr. Bill Gunderson:  Bioinorganic Chemistry

Dr. Bill Gunderson’s research is in the field of bioinorganic chemistry. Research in the Gunderson group has two aims: 1) determine the role of manganese in biomacromolecules, including enzymes and DNA structures, and 2) develop low-cost instrumentation for biochemical and biophysical studies. The first aim includes investigations of the enzyme, toxoflavin lyase, a Mn-containing enzyme that helps protect rice crops from bacterial infections. These enzymatic studies include enzyme kinetics and active site-structure studies using electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy and other spectroscopic methods. Dr. Gunderson is also investigating the binding characteristics of Mn to DNA hairpins and three-way DNA junctions using EPR spectroscopy. The second aim includes developing spectroscopic techniques using 3D printing technology and Arduino microcontrollers.

Dr. David Hales: Physical Chemistry

Methods of mass spectrometry are used to study the energetics and dynamics of peptide folding and reactivity.  Specifically, this includes relative energies of different conformations, energy barriers to conformational changes, and thermodynamics of activation for certain reactions.  Ion mobility spectrometry-mass spectrometry (IMS-MS) separates and detects different conformations of the same molecule in the gas phase.  Ion trap mass spectrometry (ITMS) quantifies the ions in a sample by mass and charge.  Together, these methods allow us to follow processes in solution or in the gas phase.  This work is a collaboration with scientists at Indiana University, where the IMS-MS instrumentation is located.  ITMS experiments, data analysis, and modeling are performed at Hendrix.

Dr. Courtney Hatch: Analytical/Atmospheric Chemistry

The Hatch Research Group uses an integrative and multidisciplinary approach to study the effects of natural aerosols on the Earth system. We aim to better understand how natural aerosol influences atmospheric chemistry and climate. Currently, we are working on two ongoing research projects.  The first project combines theoretical and experimental results to predict the cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) activity of natural insoluble aerosols from water adsorption measurements on mineral dusts and volcanic ash using Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy.  The second project aims to explore the chemical composition of atmospheric aerosols using a high-volume aerosol sampler for collection of particles, followed by chemical characterization using ion chromatography (IC) and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS)

Dr. Peter Kett: Physical Chemistry

In the Kett Research Group we are interested in studying surface and interfacial phenomena. Specifically we look at how solid surfaces interact with adsorbed molecules and how the adsorption process can be controlled through changes in ionic strength, pH, and surface charge. Currently the group is focused on developing a kinetic model for the formation of supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) on a silicon dioxide (SiO2) surface. SLBs are a class of model biological membrane in which a phospholipid bilayer is supported on a metal or non-metal surface. They are used as mimics of biological cell membranes as the large number of different molecules that are in a cell membrane makes it difficult to determine the structure, dynamics and interactions of each individual membrane component. Although SLBs can be formed on a number of different surfaces, they do not form on all surfaces and it is not usually possible to make an a priori prediction as to whether a particular combination of phospholipid concentration, surface, salt concentration, temperature, and solution pH will result in the formation of an SLB. By monitoring the real time formation of SLBs using a Quartz Crystal Microbalance (QCM) we are developing a mechanistic model that will allow us to determine how each of these experimental conditions affects the formation of SLBs.

Dr. Caitlin Scott: Biological Chemistry