Research in Chemistry and Biochemistry

Research Excellence:

UAF Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty members have more than two million dollars per year of grants and contracts from the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Energy (DOE), as well as from other federal and private sources.  Dozens of the forty graduate students in our programs are supported through research assistantships funded by these grants.  Annually, we produce an average of more than two peer-reviewed publications per faculty member.  Our annual newsletter (the AlasChemist) documents many of these research successes and our publications.  These projects provide excellent opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students.  

Instrumentation for Research:

The Chemistry Department at UAF has a wide range of modern instruments available to undergraduate and graduate students.  The instruments are used at all levels of instruction. Faculty in the department have been active in writing grant proposals to the National Science Foundation for purchase of new instrumentation. For more information, please see our Instrumentation page.

Graduate Research: 

Graduate students in M.S. and Ph.D. graduate programs are involved in a broad array of research, from laboratory investigations to field-based studies to international collaboration.  Our two focal areas for Ph.D. research, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Environmental Chemistry provide excellent graduate research opportunities.  The M.S. and M.A. programs in Chemistry provide excellent training and enhanced employability at the masters level.  Our M.S. and Ph.D. graduates are in great demand, in industry, academia, and government.  See the faculty members' web pages and their laboratory group pages for more information.

Graduate students are provided a generous stipend and tuition waiver through either teaching or research assistantships.  See the Graduate Programs Pages for more information.  

Undergraduate Research:

The small class sizes at UAF and the close interaction between students and faculty provide a type of environment often missing in larger universities. Students are encouraged to visit faculty and to become involved in research as early as possible. Most of the upper division chemistry majors work in the teaching or research program. We have had numerous undergraduates co-publish their research results with faculty in the refereed scientific literature. This type of interaction, combined with a rigorous academic program, is responsible for the success of our students after graduation. We also have an excellent array of instruments available for undergraduate labs and undergraduate research.

Beginning in Spring 2011, we began publishing the titles and brief abstracts of final reports from our undergraduate research. 

Fall 2011 Undergraduate Research

Project Title

Adenosine concentration in the brain of a dietary-restricted rat compared to an ad libitum rat during oxygen-glucose deprivation. Fall 2011.
Aerosol Differentiation through Use of an Aethalometer and Particle Counter.
Characterization of Ibogaine analogs on the α_3 β_4  nicotinic acetylcholine receptor.
 Computational Chemistry Investigation of Sulphur Dioxide.
Metal Analysis of Gunshot Residue.
Glucose Transporter 4 Expression in White Blood Cells of Young and Old Sled Dogs.

Summer 2011 Undergraduate Research

Project Title

Brief Abstract of Research

Characterization of 5-HT3R Ligands Through Membrane Voltage Clamp and Site Directed Mutagenesis

The 5-HT3R  ligand gated ion channel has been implicated as an important element in the mediation of depression. We explore the possible use of novel partial agonists for their potential antidepressant ability by characterizing these ligands according to their EC50 value, the concentration required to elicit 50% of a maximal response. We further explore the role of specific amino acids in the binding of ligands by performing mutagenesis studies on the 5-HT3R.

Spring 2011 Undergraduate Research

Project Title

Brief Abstract of Research

Using Capillary Electrophoresis to study Atropisomeric Seritonin Dimer

A covalently bonded seritonin dimer was synthesized and analyzed using 1H Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. Molecular modeling studies predict that the covalent serotonin dimer exists in two atropisomeric forms, a pair of mirror-image stereoisomers due to restrictive bond rotation. Existence of atropisomers of seritonin dimer was confirmed experimentally by cyclodextrin-based chiral capillary electrophoresis.

The Geometry of a Family of Ruthenium Enolate Complexes: A Computational Study

A ruthenium enolate inorganic complex that had been synthesized by others in prior work was studied computationally via multiple computational chemistry methods. The ruthenium complex could exist in multiple isomers with different bonding of ligands to the metal; one of those isomers has a known x-ray structure. The computational results were compared to the x-ray structure to determine which computational methods perform best for this oranometallic system.

Isolation of Dimeric Protocatechuic Acid Glycoside from Alaska Bog Blueberry

Experimental techniques were developed to extract the antioxidant dimeric protocatechuic acid glycoside (DPG) from Alaska bog blueberries. Blueberries have expressed major health benefits including a rich source of antioxidants, preservation of vision, decrease in heart disease and cancer rates, anti-neurodegenerative effects, and increased collagen matrix support. Various techniques for isolation of DPG using flash column and thin layer chromatography were explored, and successes and difficulties with the methods are described.

The Stereoisomer Separation of Chiral Alcohols using Capillary Electrophoresis

This study involved separating chiral enantiomers through the use of capillary electrophoresis with charged cyclodextrins (CDs) as chiral selectors. The alcohol used was racemic (+/-) - 4-phenyl-2-butanol. The hypothesis is that heptakis 2,3-dimethyl-6-O- sulfopropyl-beta-CD synthesized in the Green lab will provide an extended hydrophobic cavity for binding in comparison to the heptakis 2,3-dimethyl-6-O-sulfo-beta-CD recently synthesized in other labs. Consistent with this hypothesis, baseline resolution of the enantiomers of the alcohol was possible using relatively low concentrations of sulfopropyl CD (2.5 mM) in the buffer. In comparison, much higher concentrations of the sulfated CD (20 mM) were required for detection of the alcohol, while not providing chiral resolution.

Neutral Sphingomyelinase Regulation and Subcellular Localization in Neurons

Localization of individual protiens involved with inflammation was attempted through microscopy using immunofluorescent imaging of stained actin filaments and neuroinflammation associated proteins. Images of stained cells were obtained in this work, but the final goal of colocalization of these proteins with actin filiments was not achieved. Protocols were developed that should assist future work in this area.

Using Surface Plasmon Resonance to analyze binding complex between acetylcholine-binding protein and 5-HT3R antagonist granisetronThe acetylcholine binding protein (AChBP) is widely used to characterize ligand gated ion channels (LGIC), particularly the Cys-loop super family. The serotonin type 3 receptor (5-HT3R) is a member of this super family. Characterization of 5-HT3R is of great interest. In this work, we harvested and purified AChBP from transfected HEK-293 cells and used a surface plasmon resonance (SPR)- based biosensor to analyze AChBP binding with 5-HT3R antagonist granisetron.  Granisetron binding data indicated the apparent to be ~<1 nM.
Dr. Chris Iceman works in a glove box in Dr. Tom Trainor's Environmental Chemistry research laboratory. UAF photo by Todd Paris.
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