Research

Research

Overview

Faculty and students in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry pursue research that encompasses all areas of chemistry, including

Analytical Chemistry

Analytical chemistry focuses on the use of instrumentation to separate, identify, and quantify chemical materials. Analytical chemistry research at UA covers a broad range of applications. Dr. Cassady is an expert in mass spectrometry, which determines the mass of molecules and molecular fragments. She uses these techniques to determine the structure of proteins. Dr. Bowman applies electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy to study materials ranging from inorganic catalysts to biomolecules. Dr. Pan is an electrochemist and spectroscopist who has developed methods to observe single molecules. He applies these techniques to studying materials for energy harvesting, storage, and conversion. Dr. Street is a surface scientist who uses a variety of spectroscopic techniques to study molecular interactions at surfaces. Dr. Szulczewski uses surface analysis techniques such as scanning probe, electron, and photoelectron spectroscopy to study nanomaterials, molecular electronics, and spintronic devices.

Biochemistry

Biochemistry is the study of the chemical basis for life. All life utilizes proteins, ribonucleic acids (RNA), and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) a variety of other molecules to carry out incredibly complex biochemical processes. The Department has a strong effort in understanding the mechanism and function of enzymatic processes. Dr. Dunkle studies RNA modification enzymes and RNA-protein interactions. These enzymes affect processes such as gene regulation and antibiotic resistance. Dr. Frantom applies genomic enzymology to understanding the role of conformational changes in enzyme function and mechanisms. Dr. Thompson’s research in mechanistic enzymology seeks to combat antibiotic resistance by understanding the mechanisms bacteria use to deactivate antibiotic compounds. Dr. Vincent is a bioinorganic chemist who studies metalloenzymes and the roles that metals, such as chromium, play in biochemistry. Dr. Bowman is an electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy. He applies EPR to studying a variety of biochemical systems, including electron transport in proteins and the structure and function of metalloenzymes.

Inorganic Chemistry

Inorganic chemistry is a broad field of research that focuses on the entire periodic table. Inorganic chemistry research at The University of Alabama includes research on inorganic materials, applications of transition metal complexes, and the biochemistry of metals. Dr. Allred is a solid state chemist who seeks to discover and characterize new inorganic materials with magnetic or other interesting properties. Dr. Rupar is a polymer chemist with an interest in incorporating main group elements, such as boron and phosphorus, in polymeric materials with applications in solar energy conversion and light emission. Dr. Shaughnessy studies the mechanism of transition metal-catalyzed reactions and uses this knowledge in the development of new catalyst systems. Dr. Papish develops novel transition metal compounds with application in catalysis relevant to solar fuels and medicine. Dr. Vincent’s research focuses on the role of metals, such as chromium, biochemistry and the structure and function of metalloenzymes.

Materials Chemistry

Materials chemistry is an interdisciplinary area that involves all areas of chemistry, as well as researchers from Physics and Engineering. Functional materials derived from inorganic, organic or hybrid structures form the basis of modern society. Important applications include the integrated circuits, data storage, display technology, sensors, medicine, polymers, and catalysts. The focus of materials chemistry is understanding how the structure and properties of materials at the molecular scale impact their function.

Department research focuses on the synthesis of new materials and characterization of the properties of materials. Several faculty focus on the synthesis and characterization of new materials, including hierarchically porous materials (Dr. Bakker), organic materials (Dr. Blackstock), polymeric materials (Dr. Rupar), spintronic materials (Dr. Gupta and Dr. Szulczewski), photovoltaic materials (Dr. Pan), molecular electronics (Dr. Metzger), and nanomaterials (Dr. Street), solid state materials (Dr. Allred). Department faculty also have strong capabilities in materials characterization using spectroscopic and surface analysis techniques (Dr. Ghosh, Dr. Pan, Dr. Street, and Dr. Szulczewski) and theoretical modeling (Dr. Dixon).

Organic Chemistry

test tube under a light

Organic chemistry is the study of compounds derived from carbon. Organic chemicals make up nearly everything around us, including medicines, food, plastics, electronics, clothing, and all life. Organic chemists seek to understand the structure of organic molecules, design new methods to prepare new organic structures, and apply organic compounds to scientific challenges of all types.

Organic chemistry research at The University of Alabama primarily focuses on the synthesis of new molecules and their applications. Dr. Jennings and Dr. Snowden explore methods to synthesize organic molecules derived from nature or with applications in medicine. Dr. Blackstock’s research is focused on synthesizing novel organic materials with applications in electron transport, charge storage, and switchable devices.

Dr. Papish and Dr. Shaughnessy are organometallic chemists. Dr. Papish develops organometallic compounds applicable as catalysts or in medicine. Dr. Shaughnessy’s research focuses on applications of transition metal catalysts for organic transformations.

Synthesis of novel biomolecules, such as non-natural nucleosides and peptide nucleic acids, is the focus of Dr. Woski’s research group. Dr. Bonizzoni is interested in applying organic compounds to develop pattern-based recognition systems for molecular systems. Dr. Rupar is a polymer chemist interested in new methods for controlled polymerization of organic building blocks to produce functional polymers applicable in sensing, drug delivery, CO2 capture, solar energy conversion, and light emission

Physical Chemistry

Physical chemists seek to understand the fundamental nature of chemical materials using techniques ranging from computational modeling to advanced spectroscopic techniques.

Physical chemistry research at UA includes research into new materials, spectroscopy, and computational modeling. Dr. Martin Bakker’s research focuses on assembly of hierarchically porous materials with applications in separations and catalysis. Dr. Gupta’s develops methods for the controlled fabrication of novel nanostructured materials, such as spintronic materials for data storage and nanostructured materials for biomedical applications. Dr. Street is a surface scientist who uses a variety of spectroscopic techniques to study molecular interactions at surfaces. Dr. Szulczewski uses surface analysis techniques such as scanning probe, electron, and photoelectron spectroscopy to study nanomaterials, molecular electronics, and spintronic devices.

The development of molecular scale electronic materials is the focus of Dr. Metzger’s research. Spectroscopy is an important method to analyze chemical materials. Dr. Ghosh applies infrared spectroscopy in combination with optical and atomic force microscopy to provide spatially- and time-resolved images of materials ranging from biomaterials to new, improved photovoltaics. Dr. Dixon is a computational chemist who applies high-level theory to solve chemical problems of societal importance, such as developing new energy capture and storage materials, nuclear waste cleanup, and catalysis.

Research News

The articles you’ll find on our research news page represent only our most recent discoveries and accomplishments. See our archive for more, and visit the websites for research groups led by our faculty members to read about ongoing projects.