Chemistry Department News
The Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at Boise State University is pleased to announce Dr. Owen McDougal as department chair. Dr. McDougal joined the department in 2006 after serving as an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, OR. He earned his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Utah under the mentorship of Dr. C. Dale Poulter. Dr. McDougal’s research in Organic Chemistry, specifically Natural Products and food chemistry is focused on: 1) conotoxin peptides as therapeutic drugs for Parkinson’s disease, 2) computer-aided molecular drug design, and 3) steroidal alkaloids as cancer treatments. His teaching interests are in the areas of Organic Chemistry, Organic Spectroscopy, and introductory chemistry courses for non-science majors.
Dr. McDougal’s recent accomplishments include serving as the Editor and Chief of AIMS Molecular Sciences, past President of Boise State University Faculty Senate, two-time program chair appointments for annual conferences for the American Association for the Advancement of Science Pacific Division (AAASPD), past President of the AAASPD, liaison for the 67th Annual American Chemical Society (ACS) Northwest regional meeting, and past Chair and Councilor of the Snake River Local Section of the ACS. He spearheads a department initiative offering analytical services-for-hire to regional businesses with the aim of educating and training the next generation of scientists and technicians for the local workforce. Dr. McDougal strives to lead the department to “promote student success through excellence in chemical education” by insistence on quality and accountability.
Please join us in welcoming Dr. McDougal as the new Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Boise State University.
Brad Bammel, Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has retired after 28 years of service at Boise State University. Brad was hired in 1988 as an analytical chemist and has spent his career devoted to teaching, research, and service. He most enjoyed teaching freshman chemistry science majors, freshman chemistry for non-science majors, and analytical chemistry. He also acted as a mentor to countless students who nominated him twice for the Outstanding Faculty Recognition Award!
In addition to teaching, Brad dedicated his research efforts to the biological applications of Analytical Chemistry, from the study of muscle function and cell membranes using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) to nervous system signaling and nutrition in fish using micro-dialysis. As for service, Brad devoted his time over the years to serving on the faculty senate as well as several committees, including the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, the Institutional Biosafety Committee, and the Tenure Review committee. He also volunteered his time at Science Competition Days.
Looking ahead, Brad looks forward to spending more time enjoying nature, especially skiing. As school starts up in August he’ll likely be hitting the slopes in Argentina! His future plans also involve trading in his teaching shoes for his student shoes to take math and foreign language classes, and spending plenty of quality time raising and training Bernese Mountain dogs.
The Department of Chemistry thanks him for his outstanding commitment to teaching, research, and service and wishes him well in his future endeavors.
Analytical chemist Mike Callahan has received the first-ever ELSI Origins Network (EON) Seed Grant to investigate the synthesis and breakdown of organics in meteorite parent bodies due to long-term, high-energy radiation. The internationally collaborative research project involves researchers at Harvard University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, and Boise State University (with Callahan as principal investigator).
Boise State Biomolecular Sciences Ph.D. student Matthew Turner has been published in the Journal of Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry for his work in Dr. Owen McDougal’s chemistry research lab. The research explores extraction methods and biological activity for a chemical substance called cyclopamine, found in corn lily (Veratrum californicum). Cyclopamines are thought to be cancer causing agents during fetal development.
Biochemist Rajesh Nagarajan has received a three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund his research on the chemical language of bacteria. He is working to understand how bacteria create the signal molecules to communicate with one another. Dr. Nagarajan’s research could significantly impact the use of antibiotics to treat infectious disease.
Graduate student Phillip Hammer has been awarded the prestigious NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF). The NESSF is a nationally competitive fellowship in which selection is based upon scientific merit, relevance of proposed research, and academic excellence. NASA received 767 applications among four research divisions including Planetary Science, the division for which Hammer applied. Only 28 out of 180 applicants were selected for the Planetary Science division!
Hammer’s research proposal, “Some Like It Hot: A Study of Thermally Altered Meteorites and Laboratory Analogs”, deals with understanding the formation and evolution of organic compounds in meteorite parent bodies. Hammer will carry out this research in the laboratory of his advisor, Prof. Michael Callahan, in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The one-year fellowship, which includes a $30,000 annual stipend, is renewable for up to two years.
Chemistry graduate student Paul Phillips recently attended the 97th annual American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pacific Division meeting on the University of San Diego campus. Paul was one of 12 students from undergraduate to Ph.D. candidate that competed for top honors. Paul presented his work titled, “Binding Affinity Optimization of α-Conotoxin MII Analogs to Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors” and received an honorable mention for the quality of his presentation.
Paul Phillips, a graduate student in Dr. Owen McDougal’s research group in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Boise State University, recently published his work “Assessing the utility and limitations of high throughput virtual screening” in AIMS Molecular Science. The study focused on using specialized computer modeling methods on conotoxins, a type of venom found in the snails of genus Conus. The compounds found in Conus snail darter venom show promise for binding and inhibiting nerve receptors that contribute to Parkinson’s disease and as non-narcotic analgesics for chronic pain relief.
Undergraduate chemistry student John French (pictured right), under the mentorship of Dr. Owen McDougal and Dr. Matt King (pictured left), investigated the Quantitative Determination of Vinpocetine in Dietary Supplements. His study focused on HPLC-UV measurement techniques for determining concentrations of vinpocetine in neutraceuticals. Vinpocetine is currently unregulated by the FDA or any other federal agency. During the course of this study, French perfected extraction methods for this controversial additive. French’s manuscript was recently published in Natural Product Communications 11 (5) 2016.
Kiyo Fujimoto, 2016 chemistry alumnus, has been offered a prestigious three-year graduate fellowship from the Department of Energy! Only 32 students were selected nationwide for this competitive fellowship which is administered on behalf of the Integrated University Program (IUP). The fellowship will help pay for her graduate studies and the research she will be conducting in Boise State’s Materials Science Ph.D. Program!