I have several on-going research interests and will be developing new ones not mentioned here as I get both feet firmly planted in academics and out of administration.
My work in basic research involves the study of the photochemistry of charge-transfer complex solutions and energy transfer in the gas phase through sensitization.
- Interaction of Iodine with Aromatics
A classic charge-transfer complex is the interaction of iodine with a simple aromatic such as benzene, toluene, mesitylene, etc. When an aromatic molecule is added to a solution of iodine in a non-polar solvent such as hexane, the purple iodine color is changed to a beautiful red. The iodine has accepted some electrons from the pi orbitals of the aromatic, the donor. These donor-acceptor complexes absorb light very strongly in a new region of the spectrum and provide a way of injecting energetic photons into some unusual orbitals. The result can be the formation of interesting new products. I will be continuing my study of these phenomena.
- Products of Collisions Involving Activated Mercury Atoms
Gaseous mercury atoms have an incredible ability to soak up certain photons emitted by other mercury atoms in an adjacent vessel. The wavelengths for which this is true are called resonance lines and a very interesting one is at 1849 Angstroms. This photon carries 6.6 electron volts, enough to break most chemical bonds. If a mercury atom which is carrying such a photon collides with another molecule, say methane, the photon may get transferred to the methane and some very unusual products are then produced. Using gas chromatography and other sensitive detectors I wish to better understand the nature of these products and to develop an understanding of what the reaction steps are.
My work in applied research involves the development of new experiments for advanced classes such as physical chemistry and the development of new demonstrations and hands-on experiments which can be used in the teaching of general chemistry.
- The Use of Modern Chemical Computation in Chemistry Courses
I plan to use the program Spartan which resides on the new Silicon Graphics Indy computer to develop experiments relating to chemical reactivity and spectroscopy which can be used in physical chemistry. This program is both simple to use through the X-Windows user interface and extremely sophisticated in the comprehensiveness of the calculations it can perform. It can predict reactions, calculate equilibrium constants, predict reaction rates, determine preferred conformations, calculate infra-red spectra or NMR spectra and do many other wonderful things which only a short time ago were only within the purview of dedicated theoreticians. I want to work in this exploding new area of inquiry and develop modules which will permit the average student to access these incredibly powerful tools.
- New Approaches to Learning in General Chemistry
The teaching of general chemistry is undergoing a major change at Gustavus, and this mirrors significant changes occurring in many high quality schools all over America. The key words in this transformation are "group learning" and "the discovery approach." The move is away from traditional 50 minute lectures and their replacement with a series of things, among them group activities in class and discussions driven by either these activities or by demonstrations. I would like to develop a set of simple experiments which groups of three of four students can perform in class which are safe and, properly used, instructive. I also want to develop a set of interesting demonstrations which can lead to discussions where significant learning can occur. There is considerable challenge here but I am sure it is possible and, as with other projects mentioned above, is definitely publishable.