Applied Learning

Student Research

Research opportunities are available to chemistry students throughout the year, especially in the summer. Advanced courses provide opportunities for independent study and extensive research. January Term also provides an excellent vehicle for these activities, as independent projects can be set up on or off campus.

Students have participated in summer research programs at Luther and at institutions such as:

  • University of Washington
  • New York University
  • The Mayo Clinic
  • Northwestern University
  • Boston University
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Minnesota
  • Montana State University
  • University of Massachusetts
  • Iowa State University

Through these programs, students can explore the specific facets of chemistry research that often help them direct their careers after graduation. These programs also provide students with valuable contacts in the scientific community.

Faculty Research Interests

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.

Brad Chamberlain

Sustainable Polymers

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.

Jack Hedstrom

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.

John Jefferson

Lipid Research

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.

Claude Mertzenich

Green Chemistry; Template-directed Solid-State Synthesis

Visit Professor Mertzenich’s research page for more information.

Olga Michels

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 (i.e.: 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.