Dr. Matthew Fhaner

My research involves seeking out and finding new applications for electrochemistry in the analysis of functional food research, primarily involving polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish oil.  These fatty acids are known to have a number of health benefits, so finding ways to preserve them is essential to their inclusion in human diets.  In order to preserve these fatty acids, novel antioxidant systems are being investigated to determine if there are potential new antioxidant sources from American agriculture byproducts.  

In our lab we use differential pulse voltammetry (electrochemistry) and gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry to determine the relationship between antioxidant levels and changes in the fatty acid composition of an oil.  The goal is to determine relative antioxidant efficiencies of emerging antioxidants in real-time in the hopes of finding natural sources for commercial product preservation.

Dr. Jessica Kelts

The focus of my research is the non-classical actions of vitamin D and its action in regulating the immune system.  Numerous epidemiological studies show that adequate amounts of vitamin D seem to be preventative in cancer, heart disease, and many autoimmune diseases.  While it is acknowledged that many cells in the immune system use vitamin D, the exact mechanism by which vitamin D modulates immunity is unknown and will be the focus of my research.

Dr. Nicholas Kingsley

My research is focused on the synthesis and characterization of bidentate indolyl and pyrrolyl based ligands for transition metal coordination.   These resulting metal complexes will be used as catalysts for a variety of transformations mainly hyrdroamination and polymerization of olefins.

With the wide range of bidentate ligands reported in literature that incorporate oxygen, nitrogen and phosphorus donors, and the recent interest in pyrrolide-imine ligands, it is surprising that indolyl and pyrrolyl moieties are still underutilized ligands in inorganic chemistry particularly for the main group metals. The potential utility of chelating ligands incorporating pyrrolyl or indolyl substituents can be appreciated by comparison of tri(pyrrolyl)methane to similar triamidoamine, and triamido ligands. The triamidoamine and triamido ligands have similar electronic and coordination properties but differ significantly in charge, π-donating ability, and bridging ability compared to tri(pyrrolyl)methane. The nitrogen lone pair that remains upon N→M σ-donation is involved in the aromatic π system of the heterocycle and is less available for N→M π-donation or for bridging two metal centers. Despite these advantages, there is little chemistry of chelating ligands containing pyrrolyl or indolyl substituents aside from the extensive chemistry of porphyrins, porphyrinogens and other macrocycles.

Dr. Justin Massing


Epigenetic modifications enable dynamic regulation of gene expression in response to environmental factors without altering the underlying genetic sequence. Known mechanisms include DNA methylation at cytosine and an array of organic modifications to histone N-termini. Such modifications, though necessary (e.g., cellular differentiation), have been implicated in a variety of disease pathologies, including addiction, diabetes, and cancer. Using well-established molecular imaging techniques, we are developing simple, yet innovative tools able to differentiate distinct epigenetic changes noninvasively. The ability to do so will further our understanding regarding these fundamental processes, provide useful prognostic information, and guide future therapeutic designs. 


Mononuclear nonheme iron enzymes that activate molecular oxygen catalyze crucial oxidative transformations (e.g., DNA demethylation). Despite their diverse chemistries, these metalloenzymes share a characteristic 2-His-1-carboxylate facial triad that supports a high-spin iron(IV)-oxo intermediate responsible for substrate oxidation. Synthetic strategies to generate this electronic structure include enforcing a trigonal bipyramidal geometry and sterically weakening a pseudo-octahedral ligand field about the metal center. These approaches, however, utilize nitrogen-rich ligand platforms that omit the 2-His-1-carboxylate structural motif. To better understand the features controlling iron(IV)-oxo reactivity, we are constructing weak-field oxygen-rich ligands that will structurally mimic mononuclear nonheme iron enzyme active sites. Select candidates will be applied to the fields of C-H activation and sustainable catalysis.

Dr. Jie Song

My research focuses on computational applications to real chemical systems of interest. Included in his current research interests are the highly accurate descriptions of the electronic structures of small- to moderate-sized molecules and molecular ions, the application of the hybrid quantum/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) to the large-sized system, and Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship (QSAR). Current research programs include: (i) using accurate and ultrahigh accurate multi-reference methods to investigate potential energy surfaces of smaller molecules as well as the low-lying excited states, and using ab initio methods to predict molecular properties as well as electronic structures of mid-sized molecules. The undergoing projects focus on systems like transitional metal carbide/oxide, dioxirane and its derivatives, and fullerenes; (ii) using hybrid quantum mechanics/molecular mechanic methods or the molecular mechanic methods to investigate reactions in aqueous solutions and on the surfaces; (iii) using statistical methods (combined with computational methods) to investigate the QSAR for agrochemicals.

Dr. Jessica Tischler

I am currently involved in several areas of research.  Following the principals of green chemistry, we are trying to develop alternative reaction conditions for traditional organic reactions.  For example, we are using hot, pressurized water (subcritical water) to both solvate and catalyze a reaction that traditionally is done in organic solvents with catalysts that require subsequent disposal.

Finding a targeted drug to fight cancer with limited side effects would be a magic bullet in the fight against cancer versus the shotgun approach of traditional chemotherapeutics.  In my research, we are targeting the histone deacetylase enzyme.  This enzyme is involved in regulating gene expression in cells and could be one of the mechanisms that “goes wrong” in a cancer cell.  We are investigating simple, easy to synthesize compounds and testing their ability to inhibit this enzyme, thus restoring the cell’s natural regulation process.

Dr. Besa Xhabija

The research focus of my laboratory is to study the effects of environmental toxins, nanomaterials and drugs in human development utilizing embryonic stem (ES) cells. ES cells lines are established from the inner cell mass of the 3.5 day old mouse blastocyst and they have the ability to maintain their pluripotency indefinitely. Under the tightly controlled conditions ES cells will spontaneously will give rise to more specialized cells of the ectodermal, mesodermal, and endodermal lineages, such as neuronal cells, heart, liver, blood vessel, and pancreatic islet on the addition or removal of certain growth factors.

We plan on treating the ESC cells with various environmental toxins, nanomaterials or drugs and to evaluate their effect in the formation of the pre-implantation embryo development. We would utilize quantitative real time PCR, cell cycle analysis, immunofluorescence assay, colony formation and other techniques in order to measure the change in various aspects of organismal development.