Synthetic chemistry is one of the most exciting areas of research in
the chemical field. There are many different areas of synthetic
chemistry, including but not limited to inorganic, organometallics,
organic, and biochemistry. Synthetic chemists create new molecules by
means of a series of defined chemical reactions, and when a Grove City
College student develops a new product, there is a sense of pride in
knowing they are the first individual to have ever seen that molecule.
Synthetic chemists also use a variety of instrumental methods to
identify newly prepared compounds. Phosphorus NMR, proton NMR, UV-Vis,
IR, and GC-Mass Spec are routinely run in our lab as well as having
isolated samples sent out for X-ray analysis and micro-analysis.
The Department of Chemistry at Grove City College strives to offer
interesting and educational research opportunities in synthetic
chemistry to students both during the school year and in the summer.
Research projects include the synthesis and characterization of novel
transition metal organometallic complexes using various mono-, bi-, and
tri-dentate phosphines. Characterization methods include 31P NMR, 1H
NMR, 13C NMR, 2D NMR, UV-Vis, GC-MS, AA, CV, FT-IR, microanalysis as
well as x-ray crystallography. Prepared complexes are then analyzed for
their hydrogenation capabilities utilizing a high pressure reactor.
Research students are encouraged to expand their chemical knowledge
and to develop their laboratory skills in a faculty guided research
project. An interdisciplinary biology research project involving the
investigating the identification of cuticular hydrocarbons in the
Dogbane Beetle is also underway.
At Grove City College, our research focuses on characterizing and
understanding polymeric systems when it binds to biomolecular species,
specifically DNA. We are interested in utilizing optical and imaging
instrumentation to determine the mechanism of the complex once it is
bound. Polyethylenimine (PEI) is a positively charged polymer that is
known to bind with negatively charged DNA and has been extensively used
for introducing genetic information into cells. While this system has
been applied and used extensively, the mechanism of how PEI binds to DNA
is still not known completely. As of now, we have utilized SEM
(Scanning Electron Microscopy) and UV-VIS Spectrometer, and we will be
running agarose gel and fluorescence to investigate further.
Computational chemists use computers to solve chemical problems.
Today’s amazing increase in computer capabilities makes it possible to
accurately explore the structure and energy of small molecules and to
model the behavior of thousands of atoms in order to study how a
molecule is influenced by a surface. This relatively new field of
chemistry is explored through the use of readily available software, by
the creation of new software to implement novel algorithms, or by
adapting existing software to exploit new computer hardware (an
interesting new direction is the use of graphics processors in place of
Students can collaborate with Dr. Augspurger and Dr. Falcetta on several projects including:
Calculation of Ring Strain Energies
When small, organic molecules are converted from a straight chain to
a ringed form, the formation of the ring causes the molecule to be
higher in energy (strained) which causes them to be more reactive. Our
group has used a formalism called the “Group Equivalent Method” to
calculate these ring strain energies. We have been exploring the
unexpected result of, in some cases, a three-membered ring having a ring
strain energy nearly the same as a four-membered ring. We are examining
a wide range of compounds to determine which types of compounds exhibit
this unexpected behavior. Our goal is to find a measure that would
predict which molecules behave unusually and to put forth an
Computational Studies of Electron Initiated Chemistry
Many chemical processes involve the transfer of electrons, and many
other processes are initiated by an electron colliding with a molecule.
It is well known that electron initiated chemistry is often very
sensitive to the energy of the electron impacting the molecule.
This project focuses on the details of these electron impact events.
Students use commercially available software as well as write a variety
of programs to simulate electron molecule collisions and the resulting
energy deposition into the molecule. Recent publications in the Journal
of Chemical Physics and the Journal of Physical Chemistry document our
recent progress. This work has involved students in chemistry,
biochemistry, physics, and computer science.
In biochemistry, the greatest focus is on the macromolecules of
living systems - the original nanomachines. Some investigations of these
molecules, such as proteins and nucleic acids, focus on their
functional roles while other studies are concerned with the molecules
themselves as autonomous particles.
At Grove City College, there is interest in both the functional
roles of proteins (along with cofactors and coenzymes) and nucleic acids
as well the study of these molecules as individual chemical entities.
Major experimental techniques involve site-directed mutagenesis,
recombinant protein expression, DNA sequencing, optical spectroscopy,
steady-state enzyme kinetics, and computational studies.