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Research in the Department of Chemistry is focused on areas of chemistry important to biology, materials, and the environment. In addition, the department offers research and graduate courses in the traditional areas of analytical, inorganic, nuclear, organic, and physical chemistry.
Active research areas in organic and biologically related chemistry include theoretical organic chemistry and reaction mechanisms, synthesis, natural products isolation, mechanisms of biosynthesis, and analytical separations of biologically active compounds. Projects which are under investigation at present include: the isolation and biological evaluation of anticancer compounds from marine sources; the study of novel reactions of heterocyclic compounds with application to alkaloid and antibiotic synthesis; the biosynthesis of microbial metabolites (especially antibiotics); the mechanisms of enzyme-catalyzed reactions; the synthesis of complex terpenoids, plant and fungal hormones, and macrolide antibiotics; carbene reactions; the influence of structural changes on the rate of certain thermal rearrangements; mechanisms of free radical reactions; and correlation of chemical reactions with molecular orbital calculations by high speed computers. Interdisciplinary programs involve collaborative research with other departments, such as biochemistry and pharmaceutical chemistry.
Research in materials chemistry encompasses preparation and structural characterization of new oxides, oxide halides, and fluorides; intercalation chemistry and the formation of nanoscale composites with layered hosts; design and synthesis of new oxide structures and exploration of properties such as superconductivity, thermal expansion, and catalytic activity. These materials have applications as new nonlinear optical crystals and laser hosts, and as charge-storage and other electrochemical devices. Research involves collaboration with Physics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Chemical Engineering.
Research in environmental and analytical chemistry covers chemical sensors and field instrumentation, chemical speciation, environmental transport of metal- and organic- contaminants, ICP emission and molecular luminescence spectrometry, electrochemistry, mass spectrometry, analytical extractions, biological and clinical chemistries, and microscale & high selectivity separations. Interdisciplinary programs involve collaboration with Environmental Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry, and Toxicology.
Physical chemistry research encompasses such fields as molecular and crystal structure, linear and non-linear forms of laser spectroscopy, photoelectron spectroscopy, and surface chemistry and catalysis. Electronic structure theory is an important component in these studies, and its development is a major goal of research programs in quantum chemistry. Other theoretical work deals with reactive scattering and time-dependent properties of condensed systems and liquid crystals. Nuclear chemistry research involves the synthesis of new heavy elements and new n-rich isotopes of the heavy elements, and the characterization of intermediate energy reactions involving heavy projectiles such as Xe, Au and heavy target nuclei.
Unique facilities in the Department of Chemistry include advanced instrumentation for mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, laser spectroscopy, surface analysis, x-ray crystallography, and a TRIGA research reactor.