Department of Chemistry

Chemistry Program Has Strong Tradition of Undergraduate Research

USM’s Department of Chemistry is committed to involving undergraduates in scientific research and has a history of introducing research into all aspects of the chemistry curriculum. Faculty members within the department have active research programs and encourage undergraduates at all levels to become involved in research opportunities.

Dr. Jim Ford, Associate Professor of Chemistry, believes that the opportunity to work one-on-one with faculty on their research is one of the most important aspects of USM’s chemistry program. “Students end the chemistry program with very strong application with the research we provide. Many come out with publications or a year’s worth of research.”

Each year, the department sends 8-10 students to the annual American Chemical Society (ACS) conference. ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and its annual conference attracts attendees from around the globe. The students who attend, many of whom are often co-authors on papers published by chemistry faculty, are able to present research projects in front of leading chemistry academics and professionals. In addition to attending the ACS conference, students also participate in research events locally such as USM’s Thinking Matters and the Northeast Undergraduate Research and Development Symposium (NURDS).

Dr. Caryn Prudenté, Associate Professor of Chemistry, has been working with students on immunoassay development. Immunoassays are diagnostic tools that are used to detect such things as heavy metal contaminants in the environment or antibiotic residues in food products. Dr. Prudenté’s students have been working on developing a new way to make a component of immunoassay. Most immunoassays give a response through a color change, which is a qualitative response - either the color changes or it does not. Rather than use this standard method, Dr. Prudenté wants to use metalloles to measure the levels of fluorescence which can provide a more quantitative measurement of change rather than just yes or no. Students have had to synthesize the metalloles, a process which may take years of work, and has been done outside of the classroom setting through independent study.

Dr. Prudenté enjoys bringing her research into the lab. “Projects like this help to do away with the ‘Betty Crocker’ feeling of lab classes. Students learn to fine-tune experiments, which helps increase the student’s confidence. It is more motivating for them to have a fixed goal and is a great experience outside of the lab.