Skip to Main Content
Mobile Menu

Chemistry Department News

Maranda Cantrell and Dr. Owen McDougal Helping Idaho Potato Processors Stay Globally Competitive

Maranda Cantrell

Boise State Biomolecular Sciences Ph.D. student Maranda Cantrell is teaming up with Dr. Owen McDougal to help Idaho potato processors stay globally competitive. Cantrell and McDougal are studying acrylamide, a chemical compound that can form in some foods during high-temperature cooking processes such as in the potato industry. Recent research has suggested a correlation between acrylamide and cancer risk, so Cantrell is working to discover the level at which this chemical compound is a problem. She will be devising a method to evaluate acrylamide in various potato products that can be implemented by potato processors. This will help them ensure acrylamide levels are minimal and demonstrate that their products are safe for public consumption.

Read more about Maranda Cantrell and Dr. McDougal’s research here.

Employee of the Month – March 2018

Katri Swanson

Kate Swanson

General Chemistry Lab Coordinator

Kate Swanson demonstrates an exceptional devotion to her work and an intense focus on perfection in all that she does as General Chemistry Lab Coordinator. Her attention to detail, a personal commitment to excellence, and ability to bring every job to completion in a timely manner contributes to the department’s success.

Kate is a gifted technical writer and has applied her considerable skill in both organization and writing to completely revising and organizing both General Chemistry and Analytical Chemistry Lab manuals. This has led to the creation of lab manuals that contain clear instructions and consistent post-lab reports. Kate has also worked diligently to devise detailed grading rubrics, which have simplified and standardized grading across lab sections.

Since she was hired, Kate has pushed for greater attention to lab safety, and has been a strong advocate for changes in personal protective equipment and lab attire. Her efforts to require lab coats be worn by all students in lab have been worthwhile and have improved laboratory safety.

Kate maintains a professional yet approachable demeanor in her classroom, which earns here the respect and admiration of her students. She thoroughly knows the material for each course and teaches it in an accessible manner. She genuinely cares about her students, knows all their names, and is eager to help them succeed.

Kate is a talented and knowledgeable instructor, a gifted technical writer, an energetic leader, a trustworthy colleague, and a visionary whose goal is excellence in all her endeavors. She exhibits the highest standards of honesty and integrity, and her efforts ensure student success through excellence in chemistry.

ACS Chemistry Club Attends 255th ACS National Meeting (2018)

Chem Club at ACS Conference March 2018

The Boise State ACS Chemistry Club attended the 255th ACS National Meeting (2018) in New Orleans. These undergraduates had the opportunity to present their research, examine the research of others, and attend talks, workshops, and career fair events while proudly representing the Boise State Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.

Pictured left to right: Jo Williams, Chris Bonner, Kynna Bertagnolli, Wyatt Meyers, Madilyn Paul

Thaaer Muhammed Successfully Defends Thesis

Congratulations to Thaaer Muhammed of the M.S. Chemistry Program for successfully defending his thesis titled “Total Synthesis of 6,7-Dimethyl-N-Methyl Aziridinomitosene”.

Thaaer Muhammed

Dr. Chris Saunders Featured in IdahoPTV’s Science Trek

Chris SaundersDr. Chris Saunders appeared as a guest scientist on two of Idaho Public Television’s “Science Trek” recent webcasts. In the webcasts he demonstrated fundamental chemistry topics such as the Law of Definite Proportions, the definition of an element and compounds, and the Law of Conservation of Mass. The demonstrations involved fan favorites such as fire, bubbling effervescence, and color changes.

The Boise State University Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry’s mission is to promote student success through excellence in chemistry, and Chris’s participation in Idaho Public Television’s Science Trek is a demonstration of that commitment. According to, Science Trek seeks to ” introduce science topics to elementary-age schoolchildren; provide educational materials for teachers and parents; and inspire students to investigate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) career potentials.”

The two webcasts that feature Dr. Saunders can be viewed at the following links:
Science Trek: Habitat Basics
Science Trek: Habitat Loss

Omid Mohammad Mousa Recognized at PNW LSAMP/SHPE Conference 2018

Omid Mohammad Mousa

Congratulations to Omid Mohammad Mousa for winning best poster of his session at the 2018 Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP)/Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) undergraduate research conference.

His poster was titled “Enzymatic synthesis of S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM) using archaeon Methanococcus jannaschii S-Adenosylmethionine synthase (MJ-MAT)”.

Dr. Owen McDougal and Matthew Turner Published in Clinical Toxicology

Owen McDougal and Matthew TurnerDr. Owen McDougal and Biomolecular Sciences Ph.D. student Matthew Turner were invited to participate in a research project by Dr. Brent Morgan, Director, Emory/Center for Disease Control/Georgia Poison Center Medical Toxicology Fellowship, Professor & Vice Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine. The project was to evaluate the blood serum and plasma for two hikers of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia that had poisoned themselves by eating what they thought was mountain leek. Botanist Dr. Wendy Zomlefer of the University of Georgia identified the plant as Veratrum parviflorum. Based on the work done with Veratrum californicum in McDougal’s lab, and a review article his team published on North American Veratrum alkaloids, McDougal and Turner were invited to analyze the plant alkaloids to determine if they were the causative agent that poisoned the hikers. This was the first reported incident of poisoning by Veratrum parviflorum and the first report of the alkaloids present in the plant.

McDougal and Turner’s article in Clinical Toxicology can be accessed here.

Dr. Michael Callahan Awarded NASA Grant to Study Organic Material Found on Asteroids

Mike CallahanDr. Michael Callahan has been awarded a NASA grant to study organic material found on asteroids. The two-year, $446,413 grant will be used to develop analytical techniques to analyze the organic composition of material collected in space during NASA missions. Callahan’s research is being funded by the NASA Laboratory Analysis of Returned Samples (LARS) program.

The full story on Dr. Callahan’s NASA grant can be found here.

Dr. Owen McDougal Receives COAS Faculty Excellence Award

Tony Roark and Owen McDougalDr. Owen McDougal was recognized by College of Arts and Sciences Dean Tony Roark during the spring college-wide meeting. The 2017 Faculty Excellence Award was given to Dr. McDougal for his strong record in teaching, research, and service, and his impressive ability to balance them all.

Dean Roark’s full commentary on Dr. McDougal’s nomination can be found here.

Fall 2017 Graduating Class

Congratulations to our Fall 2017 graduating class! Pictured left to right: Andy Hansen, Catie Hunt, Steve Nick, Allal Laaraj, Tudor Firica, and Sadigha Heydari.

Fall 2017 Graduating Class