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Undergraduate Student Research

Why Do Chemistry Research as an Undergraduate Chemistry Major?

Chemistry department photos, labs, students, research, classroomsThe best way to get a real sense of what scientists do is to apply the scientific background you have been developing in your classes to a research project.  In research, there are no “right” answers.  Often a great deal of time must be invested to obtain experimental results of high enough quality to be analyzed and interpreted.  It can sometimes be painstaking, tedious work…however, it can also be fascinating and engaging (which is why people do it).

Regardless of your ultimate career goals, experience with a research project will help you.  It is a crucial experience if you intend to study chemistry past the B.S. level.  It can also be helpful as a resumé-builder for industrial positions or for application to professional schools (e.g., medical, dental or pharmacy school).

Ultimately, though, the reason to do research is to learn how to ask questions that others have not asked before, how to design an experiment to address those questions, and how to interpret the results of experiments and draw conclusions.  These skills require critical and careful thinking, and will serve you well in any future endeavor.

What research opportunities are available for undergraduates in the Boise State Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry?

Chemistry department photos, labs, students, research, classrooms, for Mike McCormick

There are three courses in which students can enroll to receive research credit: CHEM 296, CHEM 396, and CHEM 495.  Each course requires instructor permission for enrollment.  While there are no official prerequisites for CHEM 296 or CHEM 396, some faculty have placed restrictions on the academic background of students for their labs.  This guarantees that the student has the appropriate background both to understand the project and to execute it safely and reliably.  There is no limit to the number of times one can enroll in research courses or the number of credits for which one enrolls.  All of the courses are variable credit, from 1-4 each semester.

One credit obligates a student to a specific number of hours of research work per week.  The course number, hours, and number of credits are determined through a discussion between the student and the faculty research mentor.  The faculty mentor also specifies details of the commitment (e.g., how the laboratory notebook should be kept, how files should be backed up, basic laboratory rules, etc.).  The faculty mentor will also provide each student with appropriate safety and instrument training.

What is the minimum research requirement for graduation?

A minimum of two credits of CHEM 495 research is required to graduate with a B.S. degree in chemistry.  This course requires a written report of the work completed in the course, as well as an oral presentation in CHEM 498, Seminar.

Students must also take two semesters of faculty-directed research.  Thus, students typically take two semesters of CHEM 495 research, with a minimum of one credit each semester.  CHEM 296 and 396 are also faculty-directed research.  Although not required, these courses easily feed into the required CHEM 495 research.

How do I get started in research?

  • See the faculty listing on the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry website, as well as the table below.  Most of the chemistry faculty conduct ongoing research projects that involve undergraduate students. The information here will give you a sense of the type of research each faculty member is doing.
  • Contact faculty members with whom you are interested in working.  Set up an appointment, ask about their projects and if you might be able to become involved.  They will then give you a permission number to enroll in their course section.
  • Plan ahead.  Bear in mind that many students are interested in doing research, so faculty can be “booked” about a year in advance for space in their labs.
  • Iron out a commitment.  This involves making a commitment to work with an individual faculty member.  Make sure both you and the faculty member are in agreement about the terms of your working in the lab (when you will start working, how many credits, how many hours per week, when those hours will be, what the grade expectations are, how many semesters you are expected to work, etc.).

Current Research Highlights of the Chemistry & Biochemistry Faculty:

Faculty Name, Primary Focus AreaResearch TopicsOffice/
Email Address
Dr. Kevin Ausman, Physical ChemistryChemistry of, uses of, and environmental interactions of carbon based nanomaterialsSCNC 309
Dr. Eric Brown, Organic & Inorganic Chemistry

Synthesis of bioinorganic complexes to model enzyme active sites

SCNC 314
Dr. Michael Callahan, Analytical ChemistryMeteorites & Cosmochemistry, Prebiotic Chemistry & Origin of Life, Archaeological Science, and BiofuelsSCNC 312
Dr. Henry Charlier, BiochemistryEnzyme function; drug developmentSCNC 311
Dr. Adam Colson, Inorganic ChemistryInorganic synthesis of polynuclear complexes of the transition metals and rare earth (lanthanide) elements; Inorganic materials (nanoparticles, colloids, etc) with applications in catalysis, energy production, and electronicsSCNC 318
Dr. Ken Cornell, BiochemistryVaccine development; Infectious diseases; antibiotic developmentSCNC 326
Dr. Matthew King, Materials & Physical ChemistryUltrafast Spectroscopy; Materials Chemistry; Solid-State Molecular Modeling; Molecular Dynamics; Crystal Structure Prediction and Material DesignSCNC 323
Dr. Jeunghoon Lee, Organic & Polymer ChemistryNanomaterials, DNA nanotechnology, synthesis and applications of nanoparticlesSCNC 324
Dr. Clifford LeMaster, Physical & Computational ChemistryEnergy transfer within and between molecules; Energy transfer effect on molecular structure and dynamicsSCNC 319/339A
Dr. Owen McDougal, Organic Chemistry, Natural Products & Food ChemistryIdentification & testing of bioactive components from marine and terrestrial sources; drug design; food (potato, onion, alfalfa, etc.), nutraceutical & specialty chemical analysis for area industry.SCNC 154B
Dr. Raj Nagarajan, BiochemistryBioorganic Chemistry, Enzyme Structure and Function, Enzyme Mechanism, Bacterial Quorum Sensing, Antimicrobial and Virulence InhibitorsSCNC 313
Dr. Dale Russell, Analytical ChemistryRemediation of nuclear wastes; Design of field portable chemical sensors; Forensic analysis of materials and trace evidence; Environmental remediation of contaminated mine sites.SCNC 316
Dr. Don Warner, Organic, Medicinal & Computational Chemistry Synthesis of anticancer agentsSCNC 315
Dr. Lisa Warner, Biochemistry & Structural BiologyBiomolecular NMR; Structural Biology; Structure/Function Relationship; Protein/RNA Biochemistry; Metabolic Flux Analysis from Isotope TrackingSCNC 154D