The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

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Katherine Van Deusen and Dr. Henry Spratt


Greg Helton


Jane Dickerson

Students Discuss Summer Scientific Research

Fourth year student Greg Helton’s eyes light up when he talks about the Summer
Undergraduate Research Program. “It was my second year to participate. I didn’t have to work anywhere else Dr. Greg Grant did a great job of finding financial support for the program. I enjoyed learning through work. The program promotes critical thinking development, and it gets students’ names into the scientific community,” Helton said.

This program allows students to work directly with professors to conduct research in chemistry and biology.

The National Science Foundation, Merck/The American Association for the Advancement of Science, Petroleum Research Fund and the Research Corporation are among those who underwrite the program, according to Dr. Greg Grant, Grote Professor of Chemistry.

“This is the largest group we have had to participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program. All of the students will have an opportunity to present their research at one of a host of analytical meetings,” Grant said.

Students recently presented their research in a poster session, and many of them will present at the South East Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (SERMACS) November 16-19 in Atlanta.

Katherine Van Deusen worked with Dr. Henry Spratt and Dr. Dawn Castle to research types of microbial enzymes that are currently present in the floodplain soils of the Chattanooga Creek, an EPA Superfund site. She called the experience “life changing.”

“It was great. I decided to go to graduate school instead of medical school. It made me realize I really love research. I will probably go the biomedical route, perhaps gene therapy in graduate school,” Van Deusen said.

Students who participated in the program researched a variety of topics:

Laura Palmiero: “In this project, chemical reactions between palladium catalysts and organic chemicals called alkyl halides are being studied. This work could be used to isolate potential pharmaceutical building blocks with defined three dimensional structure. Official Title: "Analysis of Palladium Catalyzed Dehalogenation."

Katherine VanDeusen: “Chattanooga Creek is well known as an EPA Superfund site, contaminated with coal tar from nearly a century's worth of coal cokeing on its banks. Recently, the EPA has focused on cleaning a portion of the creek's main channel. Little or no work was done on the creek's floodplain, where substantial contamination by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) has also recently been detected. One potential technique that could be utilized to remove PAHs from floodplain soils is the process know as bioremediation. For bioremediation to work in these soils it is important to know something about the types of microbial enzymes that are currently present in microbial communities of the floodplain soils. This study focused on the detection of a gene (nahAC) that leads to the production of an enzyme know to degrade the PAH - haphthalene. The findings suggest that contaminated areas of the creek floodplain have the microbial capacity to support a variety of bioremediation strategies.” Official Title: "Stimulation of nahAC Gene Production in Naphthalene-Spiked Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Contaminated Soils."

Daniel Barker: “The Chattanooga Creek Superfund Site (CCSS) is contaminated with multiple polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The US EPA has prioritized 16 of these PAHs based on ecological and human health concerns. The presence or absence of these 16 PAHs in soil collected from CCSS was determined via high pressure liquid chromatography. Mice and rats were also sampled from the CCSS in order to qualify and quantify the presence of the priority PAHs in their adipose tissue. These data confirm that the PAHs of concern are present in the CCSS and that many of these PAHs are ingested, inhaled, or absorbed by rodents living on site.” Official Title: “PAH Concentrations in Chattanooga Creek Soil.”

Paul Boerema: “Project focuses on the thermal effects of impact melting that results from the tremendous releases of energy during hypervelocity impact of objects striking the lunar surface.” Official Title: "Induced Thermoluminescence Study of Impact Metamorphism on the Moon."

Lensey Hill: “Development of new materials for the removal of the toxic heavy metal cadmium.” Official Title: "Complexation Studies of Cadmium(II) with Crown Thioether Ligands."

Greg Helton: “Development of new materials for the removal of the toxic heavy metal mercury.” Official Title: "Complexation Studies of Crown Thioether Ligands Bound to the Heavy Metal Ion Mercury(II)."

Ken Patel: “Unusual new compounds containing platinum.” Official Title: "Platinum(II) Complexes With a Crown Thioether and Polypyridine Ligands."

Weinan Chen: “New binuclear complexes containing rhodium and molybdenum.” Official Title: "Binuclear Rhodium and Molybdenum Complexes with Trithioethers."

Mary Teague: “Description of a simple method for labeling organic compounds with deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen. Deuterium labeled compounds can be useful in understanding how chemical and biological reactions take place.” Official Title: "Catalytic Transfer Deuteration Using Palladium on Activated Carbon."

Phillip Scott Gass: “Description of the reduction of epoxides to alcohols using 2-propanol instead of hydrogen gas. 2-Propanol is much easier to handle and work with as compared to hydrogen gas. Our results using 2-propanol to reduce epoxides are comparable to results obtained with hydrogen gas.” Official Title: "Catalytic Transfer Hydrogenation of Epoxides Using Raney Nickel and 2-Propanol."

Sarah Magee: “Used an instrument incorporating fiber optics and the same technology that makes digital cameras possible to automate the process of observing the chemical changes that occur when reactants mix together in a test tube. This demonstrates the use of a modern spectrophotometer.” Official Title: "Spectrophotometric Titration of Eriochrome Black T with Mg 2+.”

Brett Ferrell: “This pathway is important for the existence of microorganisms. This is a study of the production of molecules necessary for the synthesis of DNA and RNA.” Official Title: "Pyrimidine Biosynthesis in Psuedomonas Syringae and Pseudomonas
Lemonnieri Cells."

Jane Dickerson: “ Biomonitoring is one way to qualitatively and quantitatively analyze the toxic effects of pollution on the environment using biological specimens. Chinese privet growing in the Tennessee River Gorge Trust and in the Chattanooga Creek Superfund Site was analyzed for the presence of metals.” Official Title: "Biomonitoring: An Analysis of Metals in Plants Using ICP-AES."

Robert Craven: “This work is in the area of natural products organic chemistry. He observed some new reactions and his compounds are being tested for insect anti-feedant activity at the University of Ottawa.” Official Title: "The Chemistry of Guaiol Epoxides."

Erika Milczek: “ In this project, a new catalyst containing a palladium atom at its center is being developed to react with a class or organic chemicals called alkyl halides. This work could be used to isolate potential pharmaceutical building clocks with defined three-dimensional structure.” Official Title: "Studies Toward the Selective Dehalogenation of Secondary Alkyl Halides."

Laura Palmiero: “In this project, chemical reactions between palladium catalysts and organic chemicals called alkyl halides are being studied. This work could be used to isolate potential pharmaceutical building blocks with defined three dimensional structure.” Official Title: "Analysis of Palladium Catalyzed Dehalogenation."

The chemistry students and faculty presenting their research at the South East Regional
Meeting of the American Chemical Society are:

Students
Lensey Hill
Ken Patel
Mary Teague
Phillip Scott Gass
Erika Milczek
Paul Boerema
Greg Helton
Jane Dickerson
Laura Palmiero
Weinan Chen
Brett Ferrell
Sarah Prince
Vanessa Janeksela
Randi Gant
Faculty
Dr. Doug Kutz
Dr. Gretchen Potts
Dr. Kyle Knight
Dr. Greg Grant
Dr. Rob Mebane
Dr. Tom Rybolt
Dr. Manuel Santiago
Dr. Gail Meyer
Dr. Steve Symes