Below are short descriptions of some of the research areas studied by Luther chemistry faculty. Students interested in becoming involved in one of these areas of research should contact the faculty member directly.
Principal investigations focus upon the synthesis of initiators and monomers for the development of sustainable polymers (i.e., plastics that are environmentally responsible from both beginning-of-life and end-of-life perspectives). Current projects include the development of (1) titanium- and tantalum-based initiators for the stereo-controlled polymerization of D,L-lactide (a biorenewable monomer derived from corn and/or sugar cane), and (2) novel lactone monomers derived from plant-based fatty acids.
Correlation of optical spectroscopies to molecular structure; Laser spectroscopy
Principle investigations have used pulsed-lasers, circular dichroism, and fluorescence energy transfer to determine protein conformations.
The metabolism and intracellular transport of lipids are two areas of biochemistry that especially interest me. With the use of fluorescent analogs of cholesterol and sphingolipids, I am investigating how cells internalize and modify these molecules. My work involves both model liposome-membranes as well as fluorescent microscopy on cultured cells to answer biochemical questions pertaining to the mechanisms of these processes. The majority of my training in this field came from my postdoctoral experience in the Laboratory of Dr. Fred Schroeder (1988-1991), currently at Texas A&M and a recent sabbatical from Luther College (2000-2001) in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Pagano of the Mayo Clinic.
Green Chemistry; Template-directed Solid-State Synthesis
ESR spectroscopy of free radical intermediates in biological systems; Laser spectroscopy
Most of my research since graduate school has involved the use of electron spin resonance to study free radical intermediates in the metabolism of xenobiotics. I collaborate with a chemist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in North Carolina which is a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I have also spent a sabbatical at Northwestern University where I learned about Raman spectroscopy. At Luther College I have been working with our laser spectroscopy instrumentation to develop fluorescence and Raman experiments to use in upper level courses.
Host-guest Supramolecular Photochemistry and Photophysics (with applications to biology and/or the environment)
We are interested in studying how the structure of a photochemical probe (or guest) can affect its ability to interact with a relevant supramolecular structure (ie: host). Past projects in the lab studied porphyrin probes and how they interact with protein solutions and environmental pollutants (PCBs, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, furans) interacting with cyclodextrins. Using various fluorescence spectroscopy techniques in combination with NMR, UV-Vis spectroscopy and other tools at our disposal, our goal is to learn about the interactions of various guests and hosts and contribute to the larger knowledge in the field of supramolecular science.