Chemistry Directory and Faculty profiles
Click the following link to be directed to the Chemistry Department Directory for full profiles of all Chemistry faculty and professional staff or scroll this page to view a snapshot of each Chemistry Professor and their research interests.
Faculty Research Descriptions
Professor Phyllis Leber
Physical Organic Chemistry
The Leber Research Group has been studying the vinylcyclobutane-to-cyclohexene rearrangement of bicyclo[3.2.0]hept-2-enes and bicyclo[4.2.0]oct-2-enes. Based on our experimental work as well as that of others coupled with dynamic modeling studies, current thinking is that the rearrangement occurs via a short-lived diradical intermediate. We are currently attempting to utilize the cyclopropylcarbinyl (CPC)-homoallylic radical rearrangement as an indirect probe of the purported diradical intermediate.
Professor Marcus Thomsen
Professor Thomsen is currently serving as an Associate Dean of the Faculty in the Office of the Provost of the College.
Professor Ken Hess
Elucidating the fundamental processes of glow discharge plasmas that lead to their analytical utility and expanding their applications in trace element analysis in diverse fields ranging from environmental monitoring to materials science.
Scott Van Arman
Professor Scott Van Arman
We are interested in the design, synthesis, and study of molecular devices that incorporate the elements of molecular recognition and host/guest chemistry. One category of such devices that we have focused on for the past few years is conformationally flexible host molecules that can be organized by an analyte to subsequently bind solvatochromic fluorescent indicators.
This cooperative association can be used to signal the analyte binding event. Our novel design for fluorescent chemosensing may be applicable to the detection of low concentrations of so-called quenching heavy metal or transition metal ions in aqueous solution.
Professor Jennifer Morford
My research focuses on better understanding trace metal cycling in the marine environment. Since metals do not degrade, metal accumulation can be used to understand changes in the amount of metals being added to the marine environment and/or changes in conditions that affect metal accumulation over time. To improve our understanding of metal cycling, we study sediments obtained from marine waters. Because of the complexity of environmental samples, my research group also studies single mineral phases in conjunction with simple organic molecules in the laboratory to discern individual controls on metal adsorption that might be occurring in the environment. Both approaches provide us with information regarding metal sequestration in sediments under various conditions.
Professor Ed Fenlon
We use organic synthesis to build molecules for practical purposes. Research projects involve:
1. The synthesis of nucleotides and proteins with an azide (R-N3) probe to monitor electrostatic environments and solvent dynamics by vibrational (IR) spectroscopy.
2. The design and synthesis of air-stable, water-soluble organic radicals such as sulfonated BDTPP for dynamic nuclear polarization imaging.
3. Molecular knots.
4. The design and synthesis of musks as perfumes.
5. Collaborative work to synthesize ganglioside GM3 to help Amish children.
6. The history of organic chemistry.
Associate Professor Scott Brewer
My research focuses on the study of protein and nucleic acid structure with site-specificity utilizing a variety of spectroscopic methods including NMR and FTIR spectroscopy coupled with isotopic and/or chemical labels.
Associate Professor Kate Plass
I am interested in the relationships between surface and solid-state properties of materials and their technologically important behavior. The size and composition of semiconductor particles affects how they absorb light and conduct electrical charge, and we use this to design particles effective in solar energy conversion devices. We also explore how the self-assembly of organic molecules into ordered monolayers at the liquid/solid interface influences solution and surface phenomena.
Assistant Professor Christine Phillips-Piro
Work in my lab will utilize a variety of biochemical techniques and will focus on understanding protein function through structure using X-ray crystallography. An overarching theme of the projects I am interested in is how cells sense and respond to their environment. One project uses in vitro techniques to study how the pathogenic bacteria Vibrio cholerae utilizes exogenous heme as an iron source for the cell while preventing the toxic side effects that heme could cause. Another project begins to investigate the protein interactions involved in a new nitric oxide (NO) signaling pathway in eukaryotes involving S-nitrosothiols. The third project aims to study the mechanism by which a bacterium involved in bioremediation of the environment, Dehalococcoides ethenogenes, senses and degrades the pollutant tetrachloroethene which is produced by dry cleaners and chemical industries.
Assistant Professor Gabe Brandt
Professor Brandt is a chemist who rejoices particularly in the splendor of biological molecules. His graduate work involved incorporating unnatural amino acids into human ion channels expressed in the eggs of carnivorous frogs. After post-doctoral research on the X-ray crystallography of various proteins, he currently has a two-fold focus. One project in his lab addresses the biochemistry of proteins involved in the virulence mechanism of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. The other seeks to synthesize photosensitive molecules with the goal of controlling, via a pulse of light, specific biochemical pathways inside living cells.
Assistant Professor Sarah Tasker
Work in my lab will involve the interface of synthetic organic chemistry and medicinal chemistry. I am driven to discover and develop new reactions that will not only enable or shorten synthesis of small heterocyclic compounds, but also have a broader impact on the study of biological systems and in drug discovery.
Claude Yoder, Charles A. Dana Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus
The seemingly simple inorganic component of bone and teeth--hydroxylapatite, Ca5(PO4)3OH--has occupied our attention for the last decade. We are intrigued by the fact that a great variety of ions can replace, in part, those of apatite, which leads to applications such as remediation of heavy metals, ion-exchange, nuclear waste encapsulation, phosphors, and so on. We have prepared apatites containing different divalent cations of elements such as Sr, Ba, Pb, and Cd and have explored the structure of these using solid state NMR and infrared spectroscopy, as well as X-ray diffraction. Our most recent focus has been on the substitution of the carbonate ion for phosphate or hydroxide and the presence of water in the structural channels that are important to the flexibility of the these compounds. Currently we are attempting to identify the location of the carbonate ion in the structure of various apatite types, with the hope of understanding how composition and structure may affect its location.
Chemistry Faculty Research Collaborations
Collaborative research has a long history in F&M's Chemistry Department beginning with Claude Yoder whose collaboration with Charles Schaeffer, Jr. at Elizabethtown College spans 40+ years.
Select from the following list to view information on current faculty collaborations:
Leber — Baldwin Collaboration
Morford — Anderson Collaboration
Morford — Hastings Collaboration
Morford — Martin Collaboration
Morford — Yoder Collaboration
Yoder — Pasteris Collaboration
Yoder — Schaeffer Collaboration
For Franklin & Marshall College sophomore Nathan Miller, the research project before him is molybdenum, number 42 on the Periodic Table of Elements. More specifically, conducting experiments to...Read More
In a Franklin & Marshall College lab, senior chemistry major Angus Unruh alternates between a control panel with dials and a computer mouse as fellow researcher, junior Han Le, watches the images he...Read More
At first glance, the large instrument, which has its own room in Franklin & Marshall College’s Barshinger Life Sciences and Philosophy Building, appears like an ordinary microscope.Read More
Franklin & Marshall College has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation Division of Chemistry to help new chemistry faculty successfully apply for their first federal grant.Read More
The research work of a Franklin & Marshall College professor and her students could one day lead to such developments as a blood substitute.Read More
Franklin & Marshall College's Associate Professor of Chemistry Kate Plass has been named a Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, a national honor recognizing instructors committed to engaging undergraduate...Read More