Professor and student examining a burette

Research Programs

Department of Chemistry and Physics

Research Programs

Dr. Bryan Borders

Dr. Borders joined the Department of Chemistry and Physics in 2021 after teaching as a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse for two years. Our research is focused on creating and characterizing new materials for use in energy production and environmental testing. Current projects include: (1) synthesizing metal-organic frameworks from porphyrins to detect trace amounts of mercury(II) in water and (2) synthesizing metal-organic frameworks from functionalized perylenes for use in dye-sensitized solar cells. Our students get trained in the use of fluorescence and Raman spectroscopy, electrochemistry, and MOF synthesis.

Dr. Nicholas Marshall

Our interdisciplinary research group develops new reactions and techniques for modifying materials. We work to generate new materials which contribute to solving real-world problems in energy, sensing, and consumer-facing products. Current projects in our lab involve (1) modifying metal-organic frameworks with conjugated polymers to generate potential new electronic materials, (2) developing techniques for growing covalently bound polymers from surfaces for photovoltaic and sensing applications and (3) synthesizing coated nanoparticles for antimicrobial and battery applications. Our students get trained in a combination of synthetic chemistry and state-of-the-art instrumental analysis, with a particular focus on organic synthesis and electrochemistry.

Dr. Kenneth Roberts

Dr. Roberts joined the Department of Chemistry and Physics in 2015 after completing a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio. As a biochemist and enzymologist, he is interested in the underlying principles that govern the chemical reactions of enzymes, the little protein ‘machines’ that catalyze the many chemical reactions of the cell. His current projects are centered on understanding the reaction mechanism of the enzyme, 2,4’-dihydroxyacetophenone dioxygenase (DAD), which catalyzes a unique carbon-carbon bond cleavage. Dr. Roberts and his research students are currently investigating the steady-state kinetics (the steps and rates) of the DAD reaction. By varying the temperature or pH (acidity) of the reaction or by changing the atomic structure of the reactant, or even of DAD, the resulting changes in the kinetics of the reaction offer insight into the nature of the reaction. Due to the dual biological and chemical nature of biochemistry and the variety of experiments available for probing enzyme mechanisms, research students in Dr. Roberts’s lab gain experience across a variety of fields including biochemistry, analytical chemistry, organic chemistry, molecular biology, and microbiology. Hands-on experience includes (but is not limited to): bacterial culture, gene/protein mutagenesis, protein expression and purification, UV-visible absorbance spectroscopy, liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), reaction kinetics analyses, kinetic and solvent isotope effects, and chemical synthesis of substrates and analogs.

Dr. Gerard Rowe

Dr. Rowe, joined the faculty in Fall 2010 after a post-doctoral fellowship at Brandeis University.  Dr. Rowe’s research interests include many aspects of inorganic chemistry, including bioinorganic model chemistry, metal-organic frameworks, the magnetic behavior of polymetallic clusters, and computational modeling of proteins and small molecules. Students in Dr. Rowe’s research lab can choose projects in either inorganic synthesis or computational modeling depending on their interests. Current projects include: QM/MM studies of the reaction mechanism of DAD (paralleling real-world experiments carried out in Dr. Roberts’ research lab); the development of new linker molecules for use as linkers in metal-organic frameworks; and quantum chemical studies of copper molecules that can activate carbon dioxide and convert it into other molecules.

Dr. Doug White

Dr. White joined the department in 2017.  Prior to that, he completed a post-doctoral fellowship at NASA Ames Research Center with the astrochemistry group there studying laboratory analogs of planetary ices. His research at UofSC Aiken involves examining various ice mixtures similar to those found on outer-planetary surfaces such as the Jovian and Saturnian satellites and Kuiper Belt objects. These ices are created in the laboratory, thermally processed, and their properties are documented through infrared absorption spectroscopy. This is accomplished using high-vacuum systems, a closed-cycle helium cryostat, and a Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer. Studying theses ice mixtures provides a glimpse into the chemistry of the early Solar System.  His research allows students a unique opportunity to work hands-on in a field that overlaps with chemistry, physics, and astronomy.