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Undergraduate Research

General Information

"Introduction to Research in Chemistry" (CHEM 491) is a required course for the ACS certified major in Chemistry. Students pursuing the Chemistry Major (Professional Track) may use either CHEM 491 or "Special Problems in Chemistry" (CHEM 391) or "Internship in Chemistry" ( CHEM 395) to satisfy their independent project course requirement. In general, students select a research advisor after discussing their interests in chemistry with department faculty. Thereafter, each student work under the close supervision of his or her faculty research advisor on a challenging and stimulating research problem. These research activities are supported by departmental, external grants and/or University research grants. Please note that CHEM 491 must be taken before the student's final semester at Towson. Students interested in an Internship should first contact the Chemistry Department Office.

Whether enrolled in CHEM 391, CHEM 395 or in CHEM 491, participating in these projects not only serves to meet a requirement for the degree but is also an exciting and rewarding experience. By working on a faculty-supervised project, a student is given the opportunity to gain the skills and experience required for designing and executing their own experiments, and to learn how to analyze data and formulate scientifically sound conclusions. The College of Science and Mathematics supports student research through direct funding of supplies and equipment, as well as by funding student travel to meetings and conferences. Students are given full access to the research tools (electronic databases, journals, etc) and book catalogs made available online by Cook Library. Graduate and professional schools, like industrial and government employers, often will look for evidence of independent work in a student's resume.

Research Opportunities

Ryan Casey
Environmental chemistry and toxicology. Working toward an improved understanding of the processes affecting the transport and fate of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous, with emphasis on denitrification in natural wetlands. Investigating factors affecting bioavailability of transition metals in natural waters. Quantifying chemical transformations at the interface between terrestial and aquatic systems.

Nordulf Debye
Differential scanning calorimetry applied to the study of phase transitions and the characterization of materials; structural investigations with FTIR and Raman spectroscopy; development of the undergraduate physical chemistry curriculum.

Jill Discordia
Natural product synthesis. Development of model systems, using glucose as the staring material, to investigate the mechanism of ring contractions of carbohydrates.

Liina Ladon
Tutoring in the Chemistry Tutoring Center and developing computer-based learning resources for students of general and organic chemistry.

David Larkin
Problems of the chemical analyses of biologically important and interesting molecules. Current studies are on chlorophyll, particularly chlorophylls a and b, directed towards understanding the stabilities of chlorophylls in various solvents. Studies at the atomic scale of electrochemical under-potential deposition processes, particularly that of lead on silver, by integrating atomic force microscopy, scanning tunneling microscopy and electrochemical methods. This allows the study of the movement of atoms across surfaces under a variety of different chemical and electrochemical conditions.

Boon H. Loo
Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy; surface chemistry of adsorbates; surface analogs of metal complexes; photochromic and electrochromic materials; materials chemistry and characterization; nanotechnology; electroanalytical chemistry; conductive diamond electrodes for the determination of biochemical materials; environmental studies; corrosion and inhibition; electrochemical sensors; photoelectrochemical solar conversion; computational chemistry.

Clare Muhoro
Organometallic chemistry research on the synthesis, characterization and reactivity of phosphanyl(organyl)boranes This project explores the chemistry of phosphanyl(organyl) boranes, a group of compounds with potential applications in transition metal and polymer chemistries. As a result of their dual donor and acceptor nature, phosphanyl(organyl)boranes can be used to craft highly desirable metal complexes that can be employed to selectively attenuate metal complex properties. Our goal is to develop reliable and general synthetic methodology to these compounds and to apply their bifunctional properties in innovative ways.
Environmental chemistry research on the chemical fate of carbamate pesticides. Our primary interest lies in investigating the chemical fate of carbamate pesticides in aquatic systems. Carbamates are derivatives of carbamic acid and find diverse applications in global agriculture. Ligand-like carbamates and inorganic materials in soils may undergo interesting coordination chemistry under environmental conditions. Our goal is to describe selected chemical processes of this type.

David Ownby
A general theme present in my research is the goal of developing models and utilizing novel statistical approaches to accurately predict the effects and fate of metals, both singularly and in combination in both aquatic and terrestrial systems. My research addresses issues of how the chemistry of a system affects the bioavailability of metals and the consequential affect of the metal on the organism.
Other projects that have been part of my research include fate and distribution of mercury in the environment, bioaccumulation of explosives, species sensitivity distributions, and adaptation of organisms to contaminated sites.

Richard S. Preisler
Spectroscopic (UV, circular dichroism, etc.) studies of conformational transitions of nucleic acids and proteins, such as the B-Z transition in DNA. Role of osmotic stress in DNA and protein conformation. Osmometry of solutions used in osmotic stress experiments. Development of new experiments for biochemistry laboratory courses. Dr. Preisler is Acting Chair of the Chemistry Department.

Alan J. Pribula
Synthesis and study of transition-metal complexes of sulfur- and/or nitrogen containing ligands. Study of Lewis acid-base interactions of unusual Lewis acids and bases. Preparation and study of transition-metal complexes of beta-diketonate and similar ligands. Development and testing of laboratory experiments for CHEM 321 and 424. Scientific glassblowing.

J. David Rawn
Laser refractometer used to develop biosensors. Analysis of protein data bank using "mole". Study of protein folding: data analysis of folding simulations.

Lev R. Ryzhkov
Physical organic chemistry and magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The latter includes CIDNP (chemically induced dynamic nuclear polarization) and single-crystal, low temperature EPR studies of alkyl, acyloxy radicals, and cyclic localized and delocalized hydrocarbon biradicals. Recently, an inquiry into biophysical application of EPR spectroscopy to the study of dynamics and conformational behaviour of oligonucleotides was initiated, jointly with Prof. Richard Preisler.

Ana Maria Soto

Ryan Sours
Determination of surface adsorption kinetics of organic molecules on biomineral crystals (eg calcite, wheddelite) using HPLC. Molecular-scale understanding of impurity effects on crystal growth.

Cynthia Zeller
Use of cell/molecular biological methods applied to problems in forensic science, including development of methodologies that can be readily automated in the forensic laboratory setting. Development of specific cell staining techniques which will aid in the unequivocal identification of sperm cells in mixed stain samples; development of procedures that will allow for utilization of degraded DNA as is seen in mass disater situations; and devlopment of protocols which will allow for the rapid extraction of DNA from sperm cells, thereby purifying this fraction for downstream DNA analysis procedures.


Department of Chemistry
Smith Hall 543
Towson University
8000 York Road
Towson, MD 21252