Research has long been a hallmark of the Earlham science experience. Each summer, many Chemistry faculty members offer four to ten week research programs for students, both on and off campus. While on campus, students work collaboratively with faculty members. Recent projects include:
- Antioxidant properties of natural products (Mike Deibel)
- Analyses of heavy metals and pesticides in the environment (Mike and Corinne Deibel)
- Design and synthesis of biologically and/or structurally interesting organic molecules (Mark Stocksdale)
- The study of lipid membranes, vesicles, and exosome transport (Kalani Seu)
- Synthesis and computational study of transition metal complexes (Lori Watson)
- Application of portable analytical instrumentation to the study of art and archaeological objects (Mike and Corinne Deibel)
- Design and preparation of luminescent lanthanide ion complexes for metal sensing (Patrick Barber)
- Design and preparation of sustainable metal adsorbents from waste agricultural materials (Patrick Barber)
Some Chemistry students may choose to participate in the off-campus Oak Ridge National Laboratory research semester. During the school year, faculty offer Ford/Knight research projects for interested students. This work is often continued through the summer. Students present their research findings at local, regional, or national meetings.
Smaller-scale research projects are common throughout the Chemistry curriculum at Earlham. For the laboratory of Organic Chemistry II, students design their own month-long synthesis or isolation/extraction project. Recent independent projects have had such diverse topics as the synthesis of caffeine, the isolation of organic compounds from turmeric and catnip, and the synthesis (and testing!) of antibacterial drugs. In these independent projects students are not only allowed, but encouraged, to get hands-on experience with modern instrumentation such as Earlham’s 400 MHz NMR, Flash Chromatography, GC/MS, etc.
Similarly, students in Equilibrium and Analysis design, execute, and present the results of an independent project. In previous years, small groups of students have chosen to analyze mercury in local waters and tuna fish, determine trace metal concentrations in blood and coffee, quantify nicotine in tobacco products, as well as many other projects. As always, students are encouraged to make use of the Department’s instrumentation, including GC/MS, HPLC, ICP-AES, AA/Graphite Furnace, FTIR, XRF, and NMR.
Many other Chemistry courses at Earlham have independent laboratory components. We strongly believe that exposure to research methods and skills allows our students to succeed in whatever vocation they seek, be it graduate school or industrial work in chemistry; medical or veterinary school; teaching; or entirely unrelated fields.