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Why Study Chemistry and Biochemistry at Elizabethtown College

Your coursework will include plenty of lab classes and hands-on research opportunities...

Areas of Study

Areas of Study in Chemistry and Biochemistry at Elizabethtown

Labs and Equipment

Discover the different labs in which you could work

Faculty and Student Research

four chemistry students with name badges in front of poster at san francisco conference

If you are interested in the ongoing faculty and student research in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Elizabethtown College, please take a few moments to read the brief descriptions provided here for each of the major research initiatives.  By clicking on the titles, you can read more about each—the faculty mentors and student researchers who are involved, specific student projects, and examples of recent presentations and publications.

Development of Luminescence-Based Sensors for applications in Environmental Science, Forensic Science, and Biotechnology

Research in this area is directed at improving available sensing materials and sensing strategies, extending the range of possible analytes that can be measured using luminescence-based methods, designing a multi-functional luminescence-based sensor for the detection of 2 or more analytes of interest, and improving the current understanding of the relationship between luminescent reporter and polymer support.  Specific analytical targets include O2, humidity, lactate, low molecular weight alcohols, and H2.

Research in Chemical Education

At Elizabethtown College we believe strongly in the scholarship of teaching and learning. As such, a number of research projects are directed toward the development of new, more effective methods and related materials that promote experiential learning throughout our curriculum. For example, research students in this area have worked to “green up” our existing laboratory experiments, reduce the production costs and improve the efficiency of polyelectrolyte membrane fuel cells, and develop methods to validate specified formulations of over the counter herbal supplements.

Research in Forensic Chemistry –Dating of Ball Point Inks from Questioned Documents

  In this work, we are developing an extraction method to obtain representative ink samples from handwritten samples on paper and for a variety of different ink types and colors. To date, investigations published in the literature have been conducted solely on controlled writing samples and for black ballpoint pen and gel inks. We are analyzing the decomposition products of the extracted inks by High Performance Liquid Chromatography as a function of the date of the written samples to determine the feasibility of identifying counterfeit and back-dated ledger entries using this approach. We have plans also to investigate the relationship between the thickness of the ink layer deposited and the observed degradation products. Future investigations may include the imaging of inks using fluorescence microscopy and the identification of inks using infrared luminescence.

Research in Orangometallic Chemistry—Alkaline Earth and Transition Metal Complexes

Dr. Rood and Dr. Schaeffer work with students in the research labOrganometallic chemistry is an interdisciplinary field that studies the synthesis of new metal
complexes as well as the reactivity of these complexes in areas such as organic transformations and polymer chemistry.  Interest here lies in the synthesis and characterization of new alkaline earth and transition metal complexes and evaluation of their potential use as catalysts for various types of reactions.

Research in Orangometallic Chemistry—Complexes with Main Group 14 Elements

Our overall goal in this work is to prepare and characterize new and interesting organometallic compounds of the main group 14 elements. We are preparing series of heterocyclic Ge, Sn, and Pb
amino derivatives containing terminal organic and N-trimethysilyl-containing groups. These compounds are appropriate for study because:

  1. they show potential as polymer precursors and in a host of other applications because of their reactivity;
  2. examples of Ge, Sn, and Pb compounds with symmetrically-substituted N-silylated ligands are not common;
  3. they contain NMR-active nuclei 1H, 13C, 14N, 15N, 17O, 29Si, 73Ge, 119Sn, and 207Pb;
  4. some of the spiro- derivatives have received surprisingly little recent attention;
  5. the nature of the symmetry of the central Group 14 atom (e.g., tetrahedral, square planar, different in adducts, etc.) can be investigated by multinuclear NMR, providing additional systems to pursue our interest in this theme; and
  6. they show the potential to function as Lewis donors.


We have also initiated an investigation involving the synthesis and characterization of complexes resulting from reactions between GeX4 (X = Cl or Br) or alkyl- and aryl-substituted GeR4-nXn (n = 0-3) and tertiary alkyl- and arylphosphines PR3, and between GeCl2 and tertiary phosphines (GeCl2 is available commercially as the dioxane adduct).

Research in Organocatalysis

In this research, we are exploring new ways to catalyze reactions using organic molecules. Common to all projects are three reoccurring themes that are significant areas of interest to the organic chemist:

The synthesis of cyclic molecules from acyclic precursors. Most pharmaceutical compounds contain at least one ring making this research of special importance.

Zach Landis works in Dr. MacKay's Research Lab. Nucleophilic Catalysis, using nucleophiles to catalyze reactions. This motif of catalysis is a recently growing field in organic chemistry

Enantioselective Catalysis, the synthesis of asymmetric compounds in non-racemic fashion from achiral compounds. This area is of crucial importance due to different properties of enantiomers in medicinal and other applications

A current project involves the synthesis of beta-lactam heterocycles which are common structural motifs of many antibiotics. We have also initiated a program aimed at new developments for the intramolecular Rauhut-Currier reaction.

Research in Solid-State Chemistry

Metal-Organic Frameworks are porous materials composed of metal ions and organic linker molecules that assemble together into extended, three-dimensional structures.  The pore shape and size are dictated by the identity of the metal and the length of the organic molecules.  These materials are of interest in many applications including the storage of hydrogen or carbon dioxide, the separation of mixtures of small molecules, and as hosts for performing reactions.

Research in Theoretical Chemistry

Research in theoretical chemistry occurs mainly in the area of electronic structure theory. A number of projects are aimed at applying commercially available programs (e.g., Gaussian, GAMESS) to molecular systems of interest.  Other projects are in the area of methods development.  Some recent work has focused on the use of FHNC theory on electronic structure theory.  Some projects are in the area of formal theory development and some involve chemical education.  Further details may be found here 

Synthesis of new β-Lactam antibiotics

As part of our larger organocatalysis project, we are aiming to make new β-Lactam antibiotics. As new molecules are synthesized, we will screen for antibiotic activity. Students working on this project get exposure to research from a medicinal chemistry perspective.

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