“My research experience influenced me to attend graduate school. I want to discover the chemistry of things.”

Samantha Cassell '14, Ph.D. student at Harvard University

Science is a process for investigating the mysteries of the world. Valpo students learn this through the department’s many opportunities for research — classroom projects, student-faculty collaborations, and independent research. Chemistry majors develop the necessary skills to operate independently as scientists.

The Department of Chemistry offers two courses focused specifically on developing the skills for chemistry research:
  • CHEM 190 Introduction to Chemical Research — An introduction to chemical research methods and literature, including a laboratory project.
  • CHEM 495 Special Problems in Chemistry — A course in which each student investigates a chemical problem by study of the scientific literature and by work in the laboratory. Students complete a written report as well as an oral report in the chemistry colloquium.

All students are encouraged to take these opportunities. Students in the ACS-certified chemistry and biochemistry majors must complete both courses. Students in the 32-credit majors must complete at least one of the courses. Degree Programs »

All of Valpo’s chemistry faculty have active research projects, which they use as an opportunity to mentor student workers in their labs. Students may begin this work as early as the summer after their freshman year. The department has funding available to provide stipends for students participating in summer research with faculty.

The faculty’s current research topics include:

  • Spectroscopic and biochemical studies to investigate structure/function relationships in gas-sensing heme proteins
  • Physical and synthetic organic chemistry, especially relating to enamines, amines, and organophosphorus compounds
  • Synthetic organometallic chemistry, focused on transition metal carbonyl compounds with amines or with alkenes or other pi-donor ligands
  • The role of chloramines and other reactive oxidants in killing of microbes by neutrophils
  • Use of palladium catalysts to generate small, highly functionalized rings
  • Ab initio calculations of atoms and small molecules
  • Molecular spectroscopy, reaction kinetics, and electrochemistry
  • Using chemical techniques to solve biological problems, especially in terms of visualizing and understanding the nongenomic life processes
  • Interfacial, surface, thin-film, and membrane chemistry and phenomena
  • Analytical aspects of environmental issues

In addition to working with Valparaiso University faculty, chemistry majors also have the opportunity to conduct original research during the summer by participating in summer research or internship programs sponsored by other colleges and universities as well as research facilities.

Many science students find research positions through The National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. REUs are funded opportunities across the United States, which enable undergraduates to work closely with senior investigators.

Search for REU opportunities »

Students in the chemistry department may be awarded honors in chemistry, provided they meet specific requirements. Honors work is designated for students of exceptional ability who may benefit by earning up to six credits toward graduation through supervised independent research. Students who apply for honors work should understand that their work will be evaluated according to the highest standards of scholarly achievement. More information is available in the course catalog or from the chair of the chemistry department.
Valpo’s chemistry program emphasizes the importance of presenting scientific research and provides funds for students to travel and present. Students have recently presented at state and national scientific gatherings, including:
  • American Chemical Society regional and national meetings
  • American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • National Conference on Undergraduate Research
  • Indiana Academy of Science Annual Meeting
  • Butler Undergraduate Research Conference
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • National Park Service national meeting

Students also have the opportunity to share their research at Valpo’s annual Celebration of Undergraduate Scholarship. Recent presentations by chemistry students include:

  • Solar Hydrogen Production by Solar Thermal Decoupled Electrolysis: Analysis of FE3O4 in Solution
  • Molecular Hospitality: The Interactions of Brooker’s Merocyanine with Modified Cyclodextrins
  • Developing a Sensor to Detect Carbon Monoxide in Live Cells
  • Preparation of an Epoxide Precursor for Palladium-Catalyzed Trimethylenemethane Cycloaddition
  • Purifying a Mutated Carbon Monoxide Binding Protein, CooA C75S
  • Spectrofluorometric Quantification of Optical Brighteners in Ambient Water
  • The Binding Affinity of Gas Molecules to the Heme Protein CooA
  • Application of Neurospora crassa in the Treatment of Waste

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