Department of Chemistry

Undergraduate Research in Chemistry

The Chemistry Department is committed to involving undergraduates in scientific research. Our faculty members have active research programs and encourage undergraduates at all levels to discuss research opportunities. Most of our laboratory courses now contain a significant research component. Upper level students can pursue their research interests through the Special Topics and/or Senior Research courses on an individual basis with department faculty. Undergraduate research experience will make your application to graduate school stand out.

The Professor Emeritus John Ricci Undergraduate Fellowship

Established by Dr. Raymond Stevens, USM, '86, in 2007 to honor USM Professor Emeritus John Ricci and his innovative educational program at Brookhaven National Laboratory, these fellowships offer a unique opportunity for USM undergraduates to pursue research under the direction of Dr. Stevens at the University of Southern California. The Stevens Laboratory focuses on structural biology and biochemistry research projects as well as the development of protein therapeutics. More specific information about Dr. Stevens's research interests is available at

You can find out more about the application process here, and download an application in .doc or .pdf format.

Faculty Research Programs

  • Synthesis and characterization of group 14 metalloles: USM Professors Tracy, Ford, and Prudenté, collaborating with UNE Professor Mullin and St. Joseph's Professor Benferamo, are looking at a class of organometallic compounds that exhibit striking fluorescence on aggregation.
  • Energy transfer in lanthanide/mixed d10 metal dicyanides: USM Professors Tracy and Ford, collaborating with UNE Professor Mullin and UM Professor Patterson, are investigating the mechanism of energy transfer from dicyanide donors to lanthanide ions in these compounds which show tunable fluorescence.
  • Designing antibody-based diagnostic tools to detect environmental mercury: USM Professor Prudenté is modifying proteins and other biomolecules to develop immuno-chemical devices that are capable of detecting low levels of environmental contaminants.
  • Synthesizing substituted pyrolidines from β-amino radical precursors: USM Professor Prudenté exploits the reactivity of aziridines and aziridinium ions to develop new synthetic methods aimed at synthesizing biologically active substrates such as pyrolidines and β-amino acids.
  • Levels and Fate of Environmental Contaminants: USM Professor Benedict is investigating various contaminants (PAHs, PCBs, Dioxins/Furans, and heavy metals) in samples ranging from river sediments to cigarette wastes.
  • Nutrient cycling in the Presumpscot River Basin: USM Professor Benedict's research group is studying nutrient cycling, and the impacts of agricultural and urban nutrient loading on local tributaries.

Research in the curriculum

The USM Chemistry department has been a leader in providing students with meaningful research experiences early in the curriculum. Our Chemistry Undergraduate Research Center is a novel program that brings research projects from chemistry, biology, psychology, environmental science, toxicology, marine science, and engineering into the first year laboratory course. Upper level courses integrate faculty research efforts into course content as can be seen in the list below:

  • General Chemistry (CHY 116): Click here for a list of past and current projects and student presentations.
  • Analytical Chemistry (CHY 232): Over the course of this lab you will participate in research projects including constructing biosensors, performing forensic research on money, and investigating levels of iron in a variety of vegetables. In this course, you will encounter some of the most rigorous quantitative methods of chemical analysis.
  • Organic Chemistry (CHY 252/254): In the first semester you will learn techniques which you then apply in the second semester in search of synthetic pathways to new products. Past targets have included substituted metalloles, derivatives of natural products, and pyrolidines.
  • Physical Chemistry (CHY 372/374): Here you might explore energy transfer in the lanthanide/mixed d10 metal dicyanides, or try your hand at fabricating optoelectronic devices using a spin coater built from a used CPU fan, or use Professor Ford's laser-based dynamic light scattering apparatus to determine the size distribution of silver nanoparticles.
  • Special Topics (CHY 410-419), and Senior Research (CHY 490): These courses provide an opportunity to get credit for your research with a member of the department.