Undergraduate Research Opportunities
Professor Reza Ghiladi
Director of Undergraduate Research
I. General Considerations
Undergraduate research, with challenges and opportunities that are distinct from the classroom, can be valuable for undergraduate students for a variety of reasons including:
1) Development of laboratory skills: Undergraduate students can gain in-depth hands on experience and training with a variety of instruments and laboratory techniques that are not available in laboratory courses. In the research laboratory, students are often introduced to new instrumentation not present in lab courses and/or receive more extensive training on instrumentation and other laboratory techniques. Such skills are highly sought by companies that employ B.S. graduates in chemistry, and students with an extensive undergraduate research experience have a competitive advantage in the job market as well as applications for graduate or professional school.
2) Pedagogical value: The challenges (intellectual and otherwise) of independent research are quite different from those of the classroom. An intense research experience can develop critical thinking skills that complement classroom learning.
3) Fellowships/Scholarships: Undergraduate research scholarships/fellowships are available at the departmental, university and national level.
4) Career choices: Many students graduate with degrees in chemistry and make decisions about their future careers (academic and professional) without a comprehensive understanding of what a research chemist actually does. Although classroom learning is important, it does not adequately convey the challenges and experiences of performing research. Thus, those students who gain research experience are better able to decide on the career/academic path that best suits their interests and goals.
5) Students performing research in the Department of Chemistry (or a closely related discipline with a substantial chemistry component) can obtain credit for the research experience. The course for research experience is CH 499, and 1 to 3 credit hours (pass/fail) can be taken per semester. The procedure for CH 499 registration is provided below.
6) Who Should Perform Undergraduate Research: Serious students seeking to broaden their knowledge and skills, eager to learn more about science, and desire to engage in a challenging/rewarding experience. Undergraduate research is beneficial, but requires a commitment of time and energy from the student.
II. Options/Considerations for Undergraduate Research in the Department of Chemistry
Research can be performed during the academic year and/or during the summer. In addition to opportunities at NCSU, the National Science Foundation also sponsors exciting summer research programs (Research Experience for Undergraduates, or REU, Programs). See below for more details on REU and related programs.
CH 499: Research for 1 to 3 hours of course credit (CH 499) can be performed (for either a letter grade or S/U basis). In order to fully benefit from the experience, students are strongly encouraged to work for at least two semesters in a single research group; however, work beyond a single semester is not a requirement. Typically, the research experience is performed with a research group in the Department of Chemistry; however, research outside the Chemistry Department that has a chemistry component is also a possibility. The latter option requires prior approval by Prof. T. Brent Gunnoe. Research during the summer provides the best opportunity for learning and research accomplishments, and when possible students are encouraged to continue their work during the summer months. Arrangements for summer research vary from group to group and are directly with the Research Advisor.
III. Selection of Research Advisor for CH 499
Follow the steps below to select a research advisor:
a) Visit the web page at http://www.ncsu.edu/ncsu/chemistry/research/areas.html to view a list of research groups with brief descriptions of research interests. From this list, select at least three research programs that interest you. More detailed information can be found by clicking on the names of research advisors followed by selecting "Research Interest" at the subsequent web site. A list is also provided below with links to individual research pages.
b) Contact the research advisors (by email) of the groups that interest you. In the email message, introduce yourself (including your expected graduation date and other pertinent information) and inquire if positions are available for undergraduate students. If positions are available, request an appointment to discuss research opportunities in the specific group.
c) During the individual meetings with prospective research advisors, you should learn details about research opportunities for undergraduate students and the expectations of each research advisor. It is important that advisor expectations be clearly delineated in order to ensure that you are able to meet the course requirements. Based on these meetings and available positions, select a research group to join.
d) IMPORTANT: In order to enroll in CH499 your faculty research advisor must send an email to Ms. Brenda Burgess with the following statement: Please enroll (your name here) in CH499 for (semester and year here) for x (x = 1, 2 or 3) credit hours on a (choose either letter grade or S/U here) basis. For example, if you wish to take CH 499 during the Fall 2007 semester for 2 credit hours, the email would read: Please enroll Jane Doe in CH499 for Fall 2007 for 2 credit hours on a letter grade basis.
e) Arrangements to begin your research project are made directly with your research advisor.
IV. Course Requirements
The requirements to receive credit for CH 499 are a written report (one page) of your research and a signed statement from your research advisor indicating that you have fulfilled his or her expectations. If you enroll in CH 499 for a letter grade, this letter should state your letter grade. These items are due at the end of the semester, and detailed information will be sent to all students registered for CH 499 (by email) prior to the due date.
V. Grading for CH 499
Students have the option of taking CH 499 as S/U or for a letter grade. Students should decide whether to take this course as S/U or for a letter grade in consultation with their faculty research advisor. If you enroll in CH 499 for a letter grade, your faculty research advisor will assign your grade. Consistent with the NCSU Advising Handbook, here are some guidelines on grading for CH 499:
Evaluation of a student's performance in a particular course or section is the prerogative of the faculty member responsible for that course or section. No grade assigned to a student in a particular course or section may be changed without the consent of the faculty member responsible for that course or section.
S/U Grade Option
An S is a passing grade to be awarded only when the quality of the student's work is judged to be C or higher level. It is used as the passing grade for students who are taking free elective courses under the credit-only option. It may also be used for certain courses such as orientation courses, seminars, and research problems, in which A, B, and C grades are not appropriate.
The U is used to indicate that the student is not to receive credit for a credit-only or other course for which the passing grade would be S (Satisfactory).
Letter Grade Option
Letter grades for CH 499 will be based on performance in the laboratory including: a) productivity and creativity in the laboratory, b) ability to master techniques and skills, c) analytical abilities including interpretation of research results, and d) work ethic. The final written report (see above) is required to receive a grade; however, it does not factor into determination of the final letter grade. Using the components above, grades are assigned using the final guidelines:
Grade of A: Student is clearly exceptional in all four categories.
Grade of B: Student is above average in all categories and displays a strong work ethic.
Grade of C: Student exhibits average abilities and aptitude for research, but is reliable and demonstrates commendable effort.
Grade of D: Student has substantial deficiencies in one or more of the four components and exhibits below average effort.
Grade of F: Student exhibits poor aptitude and an unreliable work ethic.
VI. Summer Research Programs for Undergraduate Students
NSF REU Programs: The National Science Foundation sponsors a variety of Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Programs at sites across the United States. Although details of the programs vary depending on the site, they typically offer a ten-week intensive research experience including a stipend during the summer. Often, financial support for travel and housing/subsistence are also provided. These programs offer exceptional academic and research opportunities, and all undergraduate chemistry majors at NCSU are encouraged to consider participation in REU programs. Admission to REU programs is quite competitive, and most REU sites begin accepting applications in December or January. A list of current sites with web addresses that provide details of the specific REU programs can be found at:
Oak Ridge National Lab: Oak Ridge National Laboratory offers a summer research program. Students participating in this program receive a stipend and housing. A variety of research opportunities are available. For more information, visit the following web site:
VII. List of Research Faculty
Note: click on faculty name for link to individual research web pages
Edmond F. Bowden: Biological electrochemistry; electrochemistry of protein monolayers; biological electron transfer; monolayer modified electrodes; biosensors; enzyme electrocatalysis.
Daniel L. Comins: New synthetic methodologies, strategies for asymmetric synthesis, directed metallation reactions, stereoselective reductions, catalytic asymmetric synthesis, new chiral auxiliaries, and the total synthesis of natural products and biologically active compounds.
Alexander Deiters: Development of chemical tools to study biological functions. Our multidisciplinary research program towards novel chemotherapies of infectious diseases involves biological, combinatorial, and organometallic chemistry, as well as the total synthesis of natural products.
Stefan Franzen: The application of spectroscopy to structure and determination of enzymatic reaction mechanisms in biology.
Reza Ghiladi: Biological/medicinal inorganic chemistry. Research is focused primarily on i) the elucidation of enzyme structure-function-spectroscopy relationships as they relate to disease states, primarily the activation of the anti-tubercular drug isoniazid by the hemoprotein KatG; ii) metalloprotein (re)engineering via incorporation of unnatural amino acids into enzyme active sites; and iii) design and synthesis of novel anti-tubercular PDT agents.
Christopher B. Gorman: Design and synthesis of new optical and electronic materials for application in optoelectronic devices, nanoscale electronics, and information systems. The use of scanning probe microscopes for investigating nanoscale processes.
Lin He: Development of nanomaterial-based optical and mass spectrometric methods for chemical analysis of complex biological systems.
Elon Ison: Development of novel organometallic complexes for catalysis. Kinetic and mechanistic studies of catalytic and novel organometallic reactions. We are interested in the discovery and design of new organometallic catalysts. Our primary focus will be on catalytic oxidation reactions with a particular emphasis on green chemical reactions. Green chemistry is defined as, the invention, design and application of chemical products and processes to reduce or to eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances. Special emphasis will be placed on the mechanistic interpretation of these catalytic reactions with an eye on the elucidation of reaction pathways in order to gain insights for catalytic development in the future.
Morteza G. Khaledi: Separation mechanisms, method development and optimization in capillary electrophoresis micellar electrokinetic chromatography and HPLC; organized media in chemical separation; chiral separation; bioanalytical chemistry; applications of chemometric techniques in structure-activity-retention relationship studies.
Jonathan S. Lindsey: Development of synthetic methods in porphyrin chemistry, design of molecular photonic devices for studies in artificial photosynthesis and molecular photonics, and development of workstations for automated chemistry.
Paul A. Maggard: Synthesis and characterization of metal-organic/oxide hybrids, ferroelectric/magnetic layered oxides, and large-pore iron based solids; hydrothermal and high temperature syntheses; X-ray diffraction; photocatalytic decomposition of H 2O into H 2 and O 2; ferroelectricity; band gap measurements; electrical conductivity; electrochemical impedance spectroscopy.
James D. Martin: Characterization of magnetic and luminiscent properties of materials; Small molecule and gas sorption in metal halide analogs of zeolites; X-ray crystallography; Synthesis and characterization of materials with negative thermal expansion coefficients; Solid-state phase transitions.
Christian Melander: Bioorganic chemistry. Design and synthesis of novel ligands for the sequence specific recognition of nucleic acids. Small molecule control of gene transcription/translation. Evolution of protein catalysts to mediate key steps in the total synthesis of natural products.
David Muddiman: Professor Muddiman’s research group focuses on the development of high-end mass spectrometry instrumentation and its application to solve important biological problems. Research projects include mass measurement accuracy and quantification using FT-ICR mass spectrometry, gas-phase ion chemistry, separations coupled with MS, and understanding and exploiting a variety of ionization techniques.
Alexander A. Nevzorov: Biophysical solid-state NMR spectroscopy; structure determination of membrane proteins; development of NMR pulse sequences and structure calculation algorithms using angular-dependent NMR observables; slow-motional spin dynamics.
Bruce M. Novak: Preparation and characterization of novel polymers using transition metal catalysts.
Maria T. Oliver-Hoyo: Design and development of resources for chemistry instruction. A solid background in chemistry is essential in the development of materials to be used in chemistry courses. This group seeks inquisitive, creative, and highly motivated students interested in obtaining a strong background in chemistry to be used toward the design and development of chemical applications to educational purposes.
David A. Shultz: Molecular magnetism. Design, synthesis and characterization of organic molecules and related molecular assemblies containing unpaired electrons, particularly ligands based on semiquinones and porphyrins.
Alex Smirnov: Use of electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy and especially development of novel high field/high resolution EPR methods in biomedical and biophysical research as well as material science. The main emphasis is given to the following areas: studies protein conformations and folding with site-directed spin labeling and EPR at high magnetic fields; development of new spin-labels for distance measurements in proteins; probing electrostatic environment of proteins with High Field EPR, structure of paramagnetic ion clusters in novel optically-active glasses.
Tatyana Smirnova: Research interests focused on application of spectroscopy, especially electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) and fluorescence, in chemistry and biology, specifically to study structure and dynamics of membranes and proteins, drug-protein, and protein-protein interactions.
Myung-Hwan Whangbo: Study of structural and electronic properties of low-dimensional solid-state materials by electronic band structure calculations; analysis of scanning tunneling and atomic force microscopy images.
Jerry L. Whitten: Theoretical chemistry; electronic interactions, molecular structure theory, chemisorption on solids and surface reactions. Development of first-principles computational methods.