Students majoring in chemistry and related sciences are invited to participate in research with chemistry faculty. Under the direction of one or two faculty members, participants gain practical experience with chemistry by working on a project focused on a current topic in research. There are a variety of different projects going on in the department, some of which are briefly described below.
You can enroll in our research course (CHEM 4160/4260), participate in the Welch summer research program, or volunteer research time with chemistry faculty. Projects started by one of these modes can be continued through others; you could, for example, start a project one summer in the Welch program and enroll in CHEM 4260 in the Fall to continue your work.
Students who want to enroll in the research course should talk to different faculty members to find a project they are interested in with a professor who can supervise them. Students taking the course generally coordinate the times they will work each week with their supervising faculty members. When and how much you work will be up to your research professor, though an average of 5-6 hours per week is typical for CHEM 4260. Either of these courses can be taken by students who have completed CHEM 1302 and 1102 (Chemical Principles II and Lab). CHEM 4260 is generally offered every Fall and Spring.
Every summer a group of students are selected to work with faculty for a research experience which typically lasts either 5 or 10 week. Participating students are paid a stipend, and thus can not also receive credit for CHEM 4260, though frequently students will enroll in the course in the fall to continue the projects they started in the summer. Applications can be given to any chemistry faculty member January – March, and summer participants are typically selected in March or early April. Welch Summer Research Program Application
Faculty involved: Dr. Rafael Adrian
The preparation of organic compounds which chelate two different metals is of interest for a wide variety of interests. For example, a compound with one group that binds well to DNA and another group which cleaves DNA could be a better anti-cancer agent than a molecule containing only the DNA cleaving group. This project focuses on the synthesis of compounds that poses a DNA-binding group such as a palladium terpyridine connected by a linker to a group known to catalyze the cleavage of DNA, such as the ruthenium bipyridine. Variations in linker rigidity and length, as well as different DNA binding and cleavage groups will be examined.
Faculty involved: Dr. Julian Davis
Elevated levels of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium in the soil and water pose an environmental and human health threat. Phytoextraction is a method of removing pollutants, such as heavy metals, from the environment using plants. Plants are grown in contaminated soil &/or given contaminated water, and the contaminants are taken up by the plant. The plants with the contaminants can then be harvested and disposed of. Our previous studies have shown that two common Texas grazing grasses, Sideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) and Bermuda (Cynodon dactylon), can absorb lead and cadmium ions through the root system and into the blades of grass. Our current study focuses on which parts of the plants (roots, shoots, or both) that the metals localize to as well as a closer look at the concentration limitations of metals in both water and soil that the plants are exposed to. Lead and cadmium are extracted from samples of plant material and soil by acid digestion and measured by ICP-OES or ICP-MS.
Faculty involved: Dr. Betsy Leverett
Algae are among the most adaptable and diverse organisms on earth, thriving in nearly every type of habitat and climate, and providing the base of the food chain for most aquatic life. The biochemistry and metabolism of these fascinating organisms are especially important in extreme environments, in which they are not widely studied. In particular, the involvement of the members of thioredoxin superfamily in the cellular processes of algae such as temperature and light acclimation, lipid accumulation, stress metabolism, cell signaling, and defense. Characterization of the specific roles and cellular targets of thioredoxins and related oxidoreductases in algae may contribute to a more complete understanding of the metabolism of extremophiles as well as commercially relevant unicellular algae.