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Chemistry Department News

Department Honors Award Recipients

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry held the 2018-2019 annual academic awards ceremony on Friday, May 3rd.  Students were honored with the following awards:

Excellence in General Chemistry: Ian Neves, Brenden Bjorklund, and Sydney Birch
Excellence in Organic Chemistry: Ryland McDermott
Excellence in Analytical Chemistry: Joey Tuccinardi
Excellence in Biochemistry: Jo Williams
Excellence in Physical Chemistry: Joey Tuccinardi
Excellence in Inorganic Chemistry: Yume Mai

2019 Top Senior:  Elena Paz Munoz, pictured with department chair Dr. Owen McDougal

Chemistry Grad Students “Crush It” at Graduate Showcase Awards

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry graduate students Vannessa Campfield (McDougal Lab, pictured left below) and Patrick Schwartz (Callahan Lab, pictured right below) recently won awards at the 2019 Boise State University Graduate Showcase.  Campfield won the “Audience Choice for Best Presenter” and Schwartz won the “Graduate Student Showcase Vice President for Research and Economic Development Award.”  In total, five graduate students from the department presented, including Leanna Marquart (McDougal Lab), Ashley Poppe (Nagarajan Lab), and Melissa Roberts (Callahan Lab).  Well done to all who particpated!

Vannessa Campfield and Patrick Schwartz, award winners at the 2019 Graduate Showcase

Vannessa Campfield and Patrick Schwartz, award winners at the 2019 Graduate Showcase

Dr. Owen McDougal Publishes Unique Synthesis Technique

Dr. Owen McDougal, Department Chair and Professor of Organic Chemistry, and research assistant Dr. Narasimharao Kondamudi recently published “Microwave-Assisted Synthesis and Characterization of Stearic Acid Sucrose Ester: A Bio-Based Surfactant” in the 26 February edition of the Journal of Surfactants and Detergents.  Sugar esters are compounds used in a wide range of consumer products, including food, detergents, beauty products, and pharmaceuticals.  Dr. McDougal’s research focused on synthesizing stearic acid sucrose esters by using a microwave-assisted reactor on the reactants sucrose (found in table sugar) and stearic acid methyl ester.  His team then used FTIR, UPLC, MS, and NMR to characterize the resulting compound. In addition, yield optimization using time, temperature and catalyst amounts were generated to show the best experimental conditions.

Joey Tuccinardi Awarded Competitive Summer Research Fellowship

Congratulations to chemistry major and undergraduate research student Joey Tuccinardi, who was awarded the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship!  Joey will be working for Dr. Don Warner during summer 2019.  As part of his fellowship, Joey will present a research poster and attend an award dinner at the Merck Research Labs on August 29, 2019.

Dr. Clifford LeMaster and Students Published in Surgical Endoscopy

Dr. Clifford LeMaster, Professor in the Boise State University Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, in collaboration with local surgeons Thomas Huntington, M.D. and Ciara Huntington, M.D. of St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center and Boise State University students Jonathan Prince, Kerstin Hazelbaker, Bradley Lopes, & Tyler Webb, recently published a manuscript entitled “Safety First: Significant Risk of Air Embolism in Laparoscopic Gasketless Insufflation Systems” in the journal Surgical Endoscopy (

Gasketless insufflation systems are marketed for use in the United States and advertise the ability to prevent abdominal collapse and desufflation during laparoscopy. However, community surgeons Thomas Huntington, M.D. and Ciara Huntington, M.D. raised concern for the potential entrainment of room air into the abdomen during laparoscopy and increased risk of fatal nitrogen embolism with these systems, and this team’s collaborative research efforts found these concerns to be justified.

The authors have submitted two separate Food and Drug Administration complaints with their experimental findings to communicate the potential hazard of these devices, and current marketers of this technology were approached directly by the research team with concerns for patient safety based on this research. The team with also be contacting the EMA (European Medicines Evaluation Agency), which is the European Union’s equivalent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with the findings. Dr. LeMaster’s research team plans future collaborative studies on the risks involved.

Student researchers


Dr. Rajesh Nagarajan Lends Expertise to Channel 6 TV News Segment

Rajesh Nagarajan

Associate Professor Rajesh Nagarajan and his research lab were recently featured in a Channel 6 On Your Side news segment on bacterial communication and antibiotic resistance. Dr. Nagarajan has received a grant to study bacterial communication, and this is a topic he teaches his students. He explains that bacteria communicate in a similar way to how we social network with each other, from all over the globe on Facebook or Twitter. Their network unites them to fight ‘common enemies’ like antibiotics. Knowing how bacteria are communicating and understanding the cause of antibiotic resistance might help to eventually slow this resistance down.

The TV segment can be viewed at the following link:

Dr. Owen McDougal and Graduate Students Published in Toxins

Matt Turner, Leanna Marquart, Paul Phillips, Owen McDougal

Biomolecular Sciences Ph.D. candidate Matt Turner, chemistry MS students Leanna Marquart and Paul Phillips, and Dr. Owen McDougal recently published a review article in the journal Toxins titled, “Mutagenesis of alpha-Conotoxins for Enhancing Activity and Selectivity for Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors.” Dr. McDougal has been researching conotoxin peptides for the past twenty five years. This article highlights advances in the field of conotoxin peptides that provide a molecular template, which can be manipulated for advanced therapeutic drug development to treat diseases involving neurotransmission like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Schizophrenia, chronic pain, and nicotine addition. Highlighted in this body of work is a computational approach to therapeutic drug optimization utilizing the DockoMatic software developed by Drs. Tim Andersen and Owen McDougal at Boise State University over the past ten years. The graduate students that worked on this project spent nearly three years compiling the data and organizing it in a coherent and compelling manner for publication. This body of work is representative of the quality of student participating in graduate programs at Boise State University that have benefited from support by COBRE and INBRE, and access to the BRC.

Fall 2018 Graduates

Congratulations to Madilyn Paul and Andrew Hensiek, our Fall 2018 graduates!

Madilyn Paul and Andrew Hensiek

Elena Paz Munoz Receives Spring 2019 HERC Award

Chemistry senior Elena Paz Muñoz was recently awarded a 2019 HERC fellowship. This fellowship provides support for a student to work on a research project during the spring semester. Ms. Muñoz will work in Dr. Ken Cornell’s lab on a project she began last summer when she was supported by a Ralph Jones Premedical fellowship to investigate the consequences of MTA/SAH nucleosidase gene deletion on metabolism in pathogenic E. coli. Her work will focus on examining the ability of cells to synthesize biotin, and measuring the subsequent activity of the biotin-dependent enzyme acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC) that is responsible for an initiating step in fatty acid biosynthesis. The results of her work will have implications for the development of novel antibiotics that target microbial metabolism.

Elena Paz Munoz

Elena Paz Munoz

Savannah Irving Successfully Defends Thesis

Savannah Irving of the Boise State Chemistry M.S. Program successfully defended her thesis titled “Optimizing the Synthesis of Self-Immolative Poly(hexyl isocyanate)”. Savannah is pictured with her advisor Dr. Scott Phillips from the Boise State Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering, and her committee members Drs. Jeunghoon Lee and Adam Colson from the Boise State Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.

Savannah Irving Group Photo