Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Additional St. Olaf Summer Research Opportunities in Chemistry

The Chemistry Department has added three summer research projects since the publication of summer research opportunities a couple of weeks ago. As with the other projects, applications are due on February 15!

Miessler: Transition Metal Dithiolene Complexes and Clusters

My main research interests are in the organometallic chemistry of molybdenum and tungsten. For example, I hope to develop syntheses of new compounds of these metals that contain dithiolene ligands (bidentate ligands coordinating to metals through two sulfur atoms) in addition to organic ligands such as CO and ¬η5-C5H5. Some important molybdenum- and tungsten-containing enzymes have dithiolene ligands, and I hope to prepare compounds that might serve as models for the metal sites.
A more recent interest is cluster chemistry. For example, a molybdenum dithiolene complex and Ru3(CO)12 react to generate a variety of clusters in which sulfur forms bridges between different metals. These clusters have very interesting symmetries—visually appealing, at least to a chemist! I would like to have students explore reactions using different CO complexes to examine how broad this range of chemistry might be and how far the “isolobal analogy,” which can be used to draw analogies between inorganic and organic chemistry, can be carried in understanding this chemistry.
Students participating in this work will gain experience in vacuum line synthesis and purification techniques and will also use a variety of spectroscopic methods, especially NMR, mass spec (APCI and MALDI), IR, and UV-vis. Crystal structures of new compounds will be determined by the University of Minnesota X-ray crystallography lab.

Bob Hanson: New Methods of Biomolecular Visualization

My current research interests are in the area of molecular visualization and modeling. This project will involve the development of new ways to visualize proteins, nucleic acids, and carbohydrates. For example, the figure shown on the right depicts one frame in a movie illustrating the oxygenation/deoxygenation of hemoglobin. I'm interested in new ways to depict biomolecular processes such as this and also developing novel ways in which we as humans can interact with physical and virtual models. The student collaborating in this area should have an interest in an interdisciplinary project involving mathematics, chemistry, and biology, or some combination of those. Computer programming or web development skills are not required, but are valued.

Erik Epp: Green Chemistry Education Research

Erik, who taught Chemistry 121 this past fall and is currently back at Purdue University for a short time, will be returning to St. Olaf in April as a postdoctoral associate with Bob Hanson. Erik's research is in the area of chemical education -- how we learn and how we measure learning. Associated with a grant from the Keck Foundation, Erik will be taking a close look at how we have implemented green chemistry principles across the curriculum, particularly in organic chemistry. The student working with Erik will be doing a mix of education research and actual laboratory research, as we are interested in following through with an amazing finding we had in relation to one of the experiments we did in Chemistry 253 this past fall.

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