Chemistry Research

May 2023 - May 2024

How much carbon is absorbed by soil and particular land uses
Noah Reilly
Lauren Whetstone

Along with Lauren Whetstone, I will be conducting research regarding the following inquiry: How much carbon is absorbed by soil and particular land uses? The research is being split up into two sections. First, we will go to various places to collect different soil samples. We will then take these soil samples and analyze them by finding their bulk density analyses using the ped/geometric approach and texture analysis using the buoyoucos method. This information will then be calculated using a cylinder and water displacement. After this, using 1- and 2-dimensional NMR, FTIR, and UV/vis (including complexation with metals) for our spectroscopic analysis and using a variety of solvents and extraction conditions we are going to try and find correlations between found characteristics and common classes of organic materials in soils, as well as correlations between the soil characteristics and carbon sequestration potential in the longer term. Ultimately, we'd like to find a simple spectroscopic methodology that can be adapted to a field-portable technique.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kevin Boyd, Chemistry
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant

May 2022 - May 2023

Nicholas Hegenauer and Dr. Kevin Boyd

The River Narrative
Nicholas Hegenauer

A sensor array, built around the TI CC1350 and containing a variety of sensors for species of environmental interest, will be constructed and located in Wege Pond. The first type of sensor will be an ion-sensitive electrode which will be glued to capillaries. These polymers hold a placeholder molecule and when the molecule of interest binds the concentration of the measured ion, changes cell potential. An automated sampling device will be constructed to collect samples at specified time intervals.  These samples will be studied later by laboratory methods such as atomic absorption spectroscopy or chromatographic methods. Finally, a ligand and metal complex sensor may be developed, when the target molecule binds to the ligand, the complex changes color triggering the sensor.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kevin Boyd
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant

May 2021 - May 2022

Growth of Mixed-Metal Oxide Thin Films and their Optical, Electrical, andPlatte Boyd Photochemical Properties
Bryce Platte

A growth chamber will be constructed to allow for the creation of mixed-metal oxide films consisting of Titanium (IV) and another transition metal. From these films, the optical, electrical and photochemical effects will be measured. The photochemical effects of these films should have a wider absorption spectra compared to films made with only Titanium (IV) and therefore provide better absorption of energy from light. The growth chamber will be designed to allow for trials at varying temperatures to measure the structural changes at these different temperatures. The metals used for synthesis will be created in the laboratory while the chamber is being constructed.

Faculty Advisor: Kevin Boyd
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant

May 2019 - May 2020

Synthesis and Characterization of Ionic Liquid Crystal CompoundsJensen Batke
Aaron Batke

Thermotropic liquid crystals are compounds with an intermediate phase between crystalline solids and isotropic liquids. They can be induced into phase transitions by altering their temperature. One category of liquid crystals are ionic compounds composed of metal halide ions that are attached to alkylammonium cations with positively-charged nitrogen atoms connected to a hydrophobic hydrocarbon tail. Interest in these compounds has existed for the past 45 years. Studies have involved a range of alkyl chain lengths and different transition metal halides. However, the lanthanide metals have not been sufficiently explored. We will synthesize one or more ionic liquid crystal compounds containing alkylammonium cations with samarium chloride anions. Characterization of the resulting compounds may include elemental analysis, differential scanning calorimetry, melting point analysis via Mel Temp apparatus, polarizing optical microscopy, and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy. We hope the new compounds will exhibit thermotropic liquid crystal phases. The presence of the lanthanide element may also cause fluorescence. This work will contribute to a previously unexplored region of chemistry.

Faculty Advisor: Elizabeth Jensen
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant

Fritz Brandonisio

Scope of an Under Air Direct Arylation Reaction with Respect to Aryl Halides
Gabby Brandonisio

Direct Arylation is a type of reaction used by organic chemists to cleave C-H bonds on aromatic compounds and form C-C bonds with other aromatic compounds. Typically these reactions are done under an inert atmosphere, but previous Aquinas students that have studied this reaction using air and obtained yields just as good. The previous students have found optimal conditions for the reaction to take place. Building off of their research, our goal is to explore the scope of the reaction with respect to the aryl halides.

Faculty Advivor: Dr. Jonathan Fritz
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant

May 2018 - May 2019

Henshaw and Cheap

Kinetic Studies of OXA-207
Avery Cheap

We are studying the enzyme kinetics of OXA-207, a Class D beta-lactamase. Beta-lactamases catalyze the hydrolysis of beta-lactam antibiotics, a broad class of widely used antibiotics. By doing so, the beta-lactamase can confer antibiotic resistance to the microbe that expresses it.


Avery CheapOXA-207 differs from its parent enzyme by just one amino acid. We are measuring the kinetics using a bevy of different beta-lactam substrates.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Tim Henshaw
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant

May 2017 - May 2018

student researchers Kinetic Studies of OXA-207
Jacob Mackinder

Beta-lactamases are enzymes that catalyze the hydrolysis of beta-lactam antibiotics (e.g. penicillin) and confer antibiotic resistance to the bacteria that produce them.  We are studying an example of a Class D beta-lactamase, OXA-207, which differs from its parent enzyme by only one amino acid, but exhibits distinctly different substrate preferences.  We hope to fully characterize the substrate profile of OXA-207 and possibly investigate the structural reasons for the differences.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Tim Henshaw
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant

May 2016 - May 2017

student researchers Structural Effects of Buchwald Ligands in Direct Arylation Reactions
John McAfee

Buchwald ligands are a common choice for direct arylation reactions because of their poor electron density. I will be researching the effects of the structures of these ligands in direct arylation in order to better understand which ligand should be used. Direct arylation could promote advances in the pharmaceutical and solar industries.

Faculty Advisor: Jonathan Fritz
Funded by: Mohler-Thompson Summer Research Grant