Chemistry and Biochemistry

Faculty

A. Gericke, Professor and Department Head; Dr.rer.nat., University of Hamburg; biophysical characterization of lipid-mediated protein function, development of vibrational spectroscopic tools to characterize biological tissue.

J. M. Argüello, Professor; Ph.D., Universidad Nacional de Río Cuarto, Argentina; transmembrane ion transport, metal-ATPases structure-function, plant heavy metal homeostasis, thermophilic membrane protein structure and stability.

S. C. Burdette, Assistant Professor; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology; synthesis of fluorescent sensors for iron, photoactive chelators for delivery of metal ions in cells, applications of azobenzene derivatives with unusual optical properties, polymers to detect metal contaminants in the environment.

R. E. Connors, Professor; Ph.D., Northeastern University; photochemistry, spectroscopy, time-resolved fluorescence, photocatalysis, molecular modeling, singlet oxygen production and storage.

R. E. Dempski, Assistant Professor; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology; structure-function of membrane proteins in situ, fluorescence resonance energy transfer, biochemical and biophysical approaches to ion transport.

J. P. Dittami, Professor; Ph.D., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; medicinal chemistry, organic synthesis, new synthetic methods development.

M. H. Emmert, Assistant Professor; Ph.D., Wesfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster; transition metal catalysts for C-H functionalization and CO2 reduction, and waste-free syntheses of arylketones and reagents for direct amination of C-H bonds.

G. A. Kaminski, Associate Professor; Ph.D., Yale University; computational biochemistry and biophysics, complex formation, protein structure determination, protein-ligand interactions, compute-raided drug design.

J. MacDonald, Associate Professor; Ph.D., University of Minnesota; porous crystalline materials composed of organic & coordination compounds, polymorphism of pharmaceutical drugs, crystallization of proteins, surpramolecular assembly on surfaces.

K. K. Wobbe, Associate Professor; Ph.D., Harvard University; plant pathogen interactions, viral suppression of host defenses, regulation of terpene biosynthetic genes, plant metabolic engineering.

Research Interests

The three major areas of research in the department are:

  • Biochemistry and biophysics. Within this area there is active research on a number of topics including heavy metal transport and metal homeostasis of both plants and bacteria, computational biochemistry/biophysics of membrane proteins, enzyme structure and function, and others.
  • Molecular Design and Synthesis. Within this area there is active research on topics encompassing organic synthesis and medicinal chemistry, supramolecular materials, metal ion sensors and chelators, polymorphism in pharmaceutical drugs, spectroscopy and photophysical properties of molecules, catalysis for C-H functionalization, and more.
  • Nanotechnology. This research area encompasses such projects as photonic and nonlinear optical materials, nanoporous and microporous crystals of organic and coordination compounds, molecular interactions at surfaces, and others.

Programs of Study

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers the M.S. and Ph.D. in both Chemistry and Biochemistry. The major areas of research in the department are biochemistry and biophysics, molecular design and synthesis, and nanotechnology. 

Admission Requirements

A B.S. degree with demonstrated proficiency in chemistry or biochemistry is required for entrance to Chemistry and Biochemistry graduate programs.

Degree Requirements

Because graduate education in chemistry and biochemistry is primarily research oriented, there are few formal departmental course requirements in the graduate program. However, it is expected that each graduate student will take graduate level courses in areas of chemistry and biochemistry that are relevant to their field of specialization, as well as seminar courses. Entering students who have deficiencies in specific areas (inorganic, organic, physical, or biochemistry), as revealed by preliminary examinations, will take appropriate courses to correct these deficiencies.

Each student should select a research advisor no later than the end of the first term (seven weeks) of residence, and research should be started by the beginning of the second term.

For the M.S.

Thesis

The M.S. degree in chemistry or biochemistry requires 30 semester hours of credit, of which at least 6 or more must be thesis research, and the remainder in approved independent studies and courses at the 4000 or 500 level. Special requirements of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department are that an M.S. candidate must submit a thesis based upon research conducted under the direction of a faculty member during his or her tenure at WPI. The thesis must be approved by the faculty advisor and the chairman of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department.

For the Ph.D.

At the end of the first semester of the second year of residence, the student must submit a written and an oral progress report on completed research to the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. A committee of three faculty members, including the Research Advisor, will consider this progress report and the student’s performance in courses, and will recommend to the department whether or not the student should complete an M.S. degree, or if the student should be allowed to continue toward a Ph.D.

Qualifying Examination

Before formal admission to the doctoral program, Ph.D. candidates must take the qualifying examination in their field of specialization.

Dissertation

For the final Ph.D. degree requirement the candidate must submit and defend a satisfactory dissertation to a committee of three or more, two of whom must be from the degree granting program and one of whom must be from outside the program. The dissertation must include a significant proposal for future research in the general area of his/her research.

Chemistry and Biochemistry Research Laboratories

The Chemistry and Biochemistry Research Laboratories are located in Goddard Hall and at Gateway Park. Department facilities and instrumentation in individual research laboratories include 500 and 400 MHz FT-NMR, GC-MS, GC, HPLC, capillary electrophoresis, DSC (differential scanning calorimeter), TGA (thermogravometric analysis), polarizing optical stereomicroscope, FT-IR, UV-VIS absorption, fluorescence and phosphorescence spectroscopy; powder and single crystal x-ray diffractometers, cyclic voltammetry, impedence spectroscopy, ellipsometer, quartz crystal microbalance, grazing incidence IR, atomic force microscope (AFM), and other surface-related facilities. Additional equipment in the biochemistry area include: centrifugues, ultra-centrifugues, PCR, phospho imager, scintillation counter, FPLC, bacteria and eukaryotic cell culture and plant growth facilities. The department is exceptionally well set up with computer facilities and is also linked to the University’s network.

 
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