Faculty and Student Research

Many students will present the results of their research at national, regional, and local meetings. Especially for the national meetings, proposals for research presentation must be submitted and the approved for inclusion in the meeting.

Fast Facts:



Undergraduate Coauthors

Departmental faculty members have published 21 peer-reviewed articles with a total of 27 undergraduate coauthors since 2008.



Students Engaged in Research

Greater than 1/3 of all departmental majors are actively engaged in research during each academic year.



Students in Summer Research

An average of 7 students per summer participate with a faculty mentor in our Summer Research Program through which they receive a research stipend, room, and board.

Undergraduate research is both the cornerstone and the capstone of the Elizabethtown College Chemistry & Biochemistry curriculum.  Students can begin independent research with a faculty mentor as early as their first year and work with one or more faculty mentors during the academic year and summer, leading up to completion of a required research experience during the senior year.  In addition, fundamental research questions are routinely incorporated into the teaching laboratories associated with specific courses.

Tyler Butkus, '17
Chemistry and Business double major

Tyler explains how, with the help of his professors, turned a part-time internship into a full-time, full-scale research project to recycle food waste into high-proteen feed for livestock using black soldier flies.

To learn more about the ongoing work of faculty and student researchers in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Elizabethtown College, please see the brief descriptions provided here for each group, or contact us.  We love to talk about our research, and so do our students!

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Dr. Jeffrey Rood's Research Group

Dr. Rood's Research Group

Research interests lie in two main areas. In organometallic chemistry, new alkaline earth and transition metal complexes are synthesized, characterized, and evaluated as potential catalysts for various types of reactions, including organic transformations and polymerizations. Also under development are novel Metal-Organic Frameworks, porous materials composed of metal ions and organic linker molecules that assemble together into extended, three-dimensional structures, and whose 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 applications including the storage of hydrogen or carbon dioxide, the separation of mixtures of small molecules, and as hosts for performing reactions.

Representative Publications (undergraduate student authors underlined):

  • Rood, J. A.; Huttenstine, A. L.; Schmidt, Z. A.; White, M. R.; Oliver, A. G. Linear Alkaline Earth Metal Phosphinate Coordination Polymers: Synthesis and Structural Characterization. Acta Cryst2014 B70.
  • Quinque G. T.; Oliver, A. G.; Rood, J. A. Synthesis and structural characterization of bis-salicylaldiminato magnesium complexes of varying aggregation and coordination State. Eur. J. Inorg. Chem2011, 3321-3326.
  • Huttenstine, A. L.; Rajaseelan, E.; Oliver, A. G.; Rood, J. A. A cationic rhodium (I) N-heterocyclic carbene complex isolated as an aqua adduct. Acta Cryst2011E67, m1274-m1275.

Dr. James MacKay's Research Group

MacKay Research Group

Synthetic organic chemistry is used to construct interesting and relevant target molecules. Much of our work involves heterocyclic chemistry focused around the synthesis of molecules capable of sensing and molecular recognition. In particular we have designed routes to dapoxyl analogues that could be used in luminescence-based sensors, a green method for functionalization of pyrazoles, and the design and synthesis of novel nucleosides for incorporation into peptide nucleic acids with the aim of sequence specific recognition of RNA.

Representative Publications (undergraduate student authors underlined):

  • Olsen, K.L. (’14); Jensen, M. R. (’16); MacKay, J. A. A mild halogenation of pyrazoles using sodium halide salts and Oxone. Tetrahedron Lett. 2017, 58, 4111-4114.
  • MacKay, J. A.; Wetzel, N. R.('10) Exploring the Wittig Reaction: A Collaborative Guided-Inquiry Experiment for the Organic Chemistry Laboratory. J. Chem. Educ. 2014, 91, 722-725.
  • Bhat, V.; Dave, A.; MacKay, J. A.; Rawal, V. H. The Chemistry of Hapalindoles, Fischerindoles, Ambiguines, and Welwitindolinones, In The Alkaloids;Knölker, H.-J. Ed.; Vol 73, Academic Press: New York, 2014; pp. 65-160.
  • MacKay, J. A.; Landis, Z. C. ('11); Motika, S. E. ('12); Kench, M. H.('10) The Intramolecular Allenolate Rauhut-Currier Reaction. J. Org. Chem. 2012, 77, 7768.

Dr. Kristi Kneas's Research Group

Kneas Research Group

Specific research projects in analytical chemistry are designed to further efforts in one of three broad areas of interest: luminescence-based sensing materials and schemes to measure clinically and environmentally-relevant targets (e.g., oxygen, humidity, and blood lactate levels), improved instrumentation and industrial processes (e.g. laser spectroscopy, polyelectrolyte membrane fuel cells, greener manufacturing processes), and analytical sensing schemes for forensics applications (e.g., authentication of questioned documents using Ion pairing-HPLC for ink dating). 

Representative Publications (undergraduate student authors underlined):

  • Strohecker, S.('12); Kneas, K.; Obetz, D.; Ochoa-Putman, C. Study of Urethane Prepolymer Stability Using Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy. Technical Report; Polyurethane Manufacturers Association; April 24, 2012.
  • Tellis, J.C.('12); Strulson, C.A.('09); Myers, M.M.('11); Kneas, K.A. Relative Humidity Sensors Based on an Environment-Sensitive Fluorophore in Hydrogel Films. Anal. Chem. 2011, 83(3), 928-932.
  • Kneas, K.A.; Fontinell, M.; Armstrong, D.L.; Brank, A.R.; Johnson, A.L.; Kissinger, C.A.; Mabe, A.R. Greening up Auto Part Manufacturing: A Collaboration between Academia and Industry. J. Chem. Educ. 2009, 86, 212-215.

Dr. Gary Hoffman's Research Group

Hoffman Research Group

Research is in the general area of theoretical/computational chemistry, and work with undergraduates has involved electronic structure calculations—one project on the conformers of alanine, their relative energies and predicted IR spectra with a variety of electronic structure methods, and one project on the highly accurate (EOM-CCSD) computations for the ground and excited states of a diatomic molecule, relating the results to spectral transitions—and the study of polymer statistics, generating an efficient means of sampling conformations taking interactions and avoided crossings into account.

Representative Publications (undergraduate student author underlined) :

  • Hoffman,G.G.; Pratt, L.R. Ab Initio Molecular Dynamics Simulation of a Propylene Carbonate-filled Uncharged Nanotube Forest. Proceedings of the Louisiana EPSCoR RII LA-SiGMA 2012 Symposium, 2012.
  • Hoffman, G.G. An integral for FHNC calculations. J. Comp. Phys., 2004, 194, 659.
  • Sanders, C.; Hoffman, G.G. The role of the metal atom in metalloporphyrins. J. Undergraduate Chem. Res. 2003, 2, 21.
  • G. G. Hoffman, Using an Advanced Computational Laboratory Experiment To Extend and Deepen Physical Chemistry Students' Understanding of Atomic Structure, J. Chem. Educ. 92, 1076-1080 (2015)

Dr. Tom Hagan's Research Group

Hagan Research Group

Our research focus is two-fold: (1) we explore the development and analysis of various chemotherapeutics, and (2) we investigate the effect of these potential chemotherapeutics on cell lines with the aim of understanding their mode of uptake and mechanism of action. Specific projects include:

  • Exploring the role of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) and other polyphenols in affecting cell growth
  • Development and synthesis of Giant Unilamellar Vesicles (GUVs) as models to investigate cell membrane dynamics
  • Synthesis and evaluation of glycosylated porphyrins as effective photosensitizers and anticancer agents

Representative Publications:

  • Chen, H.L.; Ellis, Jr., P.E.; Wijesekera, T.; Hagan, T.E.; Groh, S.E.; Lyons, J.E.; Ridge, D.P. Correlation between Gas-Phase Electron Affinities, Electrode Potentials, and Catalytic Activities of Halogenated Metalloporphyrins. J. Amer. Chem. Soc., 1994, 116, 1086.
  • Chen, H.L.; Hagan, T.E.; Groh, S.E.; Ridge, D.P. Gas-Phase Reactions of Iron Porphyrins with NO2:  Oxygen Atom Transfer to Anionic and Cationic Iron Porphyrins. J. Amer. Chem. Soc., 1991, 113, 9669. Chen, H.L.; Hagan, T.E.; Groh, S.E.; Ridge, D.P. The Conformation of an Iron Porphyrin Ion with a 'Tethered'-Base. Organic Mass Spectrometry, 1991, 26, 173.

Dr. Charles Schaeffer's Research Group

Dr. Rood and Dr. Schaeffer work with students in the research lab

Research projects relate to organometallic chemistry of the main group 14 elements and NMR spectroscopy (including 1H, 13C, 29Si, 31P, 73Ge, and 119Sn). Recent work involves preparation, isolation, and characterization (via NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography) of Ge(II), Ge(IV), Sn(II), and Sn(IV) complexes of neutral and anionic pincer-type ligands.

Representative Publications (undergraduate student authors underlined) :

  • Yoder, C.H.; Griffith, A.K.; DeToma, A.S.; Gettel, C.J.; Schaeffer, Jr., C.D. Hyper-coordination in Triphenyl Oxinates of the Group 14 Elements. J. Organomet. Chem. 2010, 695, 518-523.
  • Yoder, C.H.; Agee, T.M.; Griffith, A.K.; Schaeffer, Jr., C.D. Carroll, M.J.; DeToma, A.S.; Fleisher, A.J.; Gettel, C.J.; Rheingold, A.L. Use of 73Ge NMR Spectroscopy and X-ray Crystallography for the Study of Electronic Interactions in Substituted Tetrakis(phenyl)-,-(phenoxy)-, and -(thiophenoxy)germanes.Organometallics  2010, 29, 582-590.
  • Yoder,C.H.; Agee, T.M.; Schaeffer, Jr., C.D.; Carroll, M.J.; Fleisher, A.J.; DeToma, A.S. Use of 73Ge NMR Spectroscopy for the Study of Electronic Interactions. Inorg. Chem. 2008, 47(22), 10765-10770.

Dr. Lauren Gibson's Research and Projects

Our broad research goal is to develop diagnostic tools for low-resource settings. Specifically, we are designing water quality tests that are sensitive, simple and inexpensive. Projects include the synthesis of polymer nanoparticles for the colorimetric detection of mercury, as well as the development of paper-based tests. These projects give students experience in synthetic, materials and analytical chemistry.


Gibson, L.E.; Markwalter, Christine F.; Kimmel, Danielle W.; Mudenda, Lwiindi; Mbambara, Saidon; Thuma, Philip E.; Wright, David W. Plasmodium falciparum HRP2 ELISA for Analysis of Dried Blood Spot Samples in Rural Zambia. Malar. J. 2017 16:350.

Gibson, L. E.; Wright, David W. Sensitive Method for Biomolecule Detection Utilizing Signal Amplification with Porphyrin Nanoparticles Anal. Chem. 2016, 88(11), 5928-5933.