The department offer a variety of advanced electives in chemistry and biochemistry each year titled Selected Topics. Each course provides students with the opportunity to explore their interest areas and tailor their undergraduate experience. Both majors and minors in Chemistry or Biochemistry may combine multiple block courses to fulfill their elective requirements. Four courses are scheduled in each year providing many opportunities to try a new areas. These brief 7-week block courses are exciting introductions to advanced material. Below you will find a list of Selected Topics courses offered in recent years as well as the specific courses offered this year. If you are interested in any of these courses please contact a faculty member to discuss the potential of future offerings and the schedule, as well as opportunities for independent study and research.   

Topics currently scheduled

Fall 2021 

Bioorganic Chemistry Lab with Scott Ulrich
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance with Mike Haaf

SPRING 2022 

Forensic Chemistry with Janet Hunting
Polymers in Food Chemistry with Jamie Ellis

Example Selected Topics Descriptions

Advanced Organic Synthesis

This course serves as an introduction to modern organic reactions and strategies for complicated syntheses. Building upon the fundamental concepts developed in Organic Chemistry I and II, topics will include design strategies, functional group transformations, protecting groups, stereoselective reactions, and reaction mechanisms. The primary literature will also be used to explore recent advancements in the field.

Bioorganic Chemistry Lab

This class will involve a series of experiments in biological chemistry. Projects include the chemical synthesis of an enzyme inhibitor and the purification of its enzyme target followed by measurement of its biological activity against its enzyme target. We will also purify an enzyme by affinity chromatography and measure its enzyme’s kinetic properties. Students will also gain extensive practical experience with 1D and 2D NMR spectroscopy.

Chemistry of Environmental Contaminants

The Earth is a beautifully complex chemical environment, and the impact humans have on it is perhaps even more complex. This course will explore the chemistry that drives how contaminants in water and air affect the environment (e.g. climate change, acid rain, etc.) and human health (e.g. toxin exposure, poor air quality, etc.).

Chemistry of Materials

Materials chemistry has emerged as a distinct branch of chemistry covering both non-molecular, solid-state materials and many molecular materials. In the 1990’s and now into the 21st century, research into solid-state materials chemistry has expanded very rapidly. This was fueled in part by the dramatic discovery of “high temperature” ceramic oxide superconductors in 1986, and by the search for new and better materials. We have seen immense strides in the development and understanding of nanotechnology, graphene materials, micro- and meso-porous solids, fuel cells, and the giant magnetoresistance effect, to mention but a few areas.This course will attempt to give you a flavor of the excitement that some of this research has produced, and perhaps, more importantly the background with which to understand these developments and those which are yet to come.

All substances, if cooled sufficiently, form a solid phase; the vast majority form one or more crystalline phases, where the atoms, molecules, or ions pack together to form a regular repeating array. We are concerned mostly with the structures of metals, ionic solids, and extended covalent structures; structures which do not contain discrete molecules, but which comprise extended arrays of atoms or ions. We will look at the structure and bonding in these solids, how the properties of a solid depend on its structure, and how the properties can be modified by changes to the structure.

Experimental Electrochemistry for Materials, Medical, and Environmental Applications

Electrochemistry is working everywhere in our modern daily lives, from batteries to medical and environmental analysis and a multitude of other applications.  In this course, you will learn the concepts and experimental techniques of electrochemistry through hands-on activities.  The experiments are selected for their close relationship to our present and future encounters in the real world. Four laboratory experiments are planned for the course: Assessment of Polymer Electrolytes (Implication of Lithium-Ion Batteries); Synthesis and Electrochemical Evaluation of Catalysts for Water Oxidation and Reduction (Cyclic voltammetry); Glucose Determination by Enzyme-Modified Biosensor Electrode (Amperometry); Nitrate Ion-Selective Electrode (Potentiometry).

Natural Products Synthesis and Medicinal Applications 

Natural products are relatively small molecules, produced mainly by plants and microorganisms that have a long history of uses by people, e. g. poisons, antibiotics, perfumes, malodorants, cosmetics, dietary supplements, etc. This course will focus on the synthesis and medical applications of natural products and be organized on the basis of the biosynthetic pathways that lead to these natural organic compounds. The following areas shall emphasized in this course: classification of natural products, isolation techniques, terpenes and terpenoids, steroids, alkaloids, flavonoids, coumarins, polyketides, anthraquinones, and their medicinal application.

Inorganic Spectroscopy

This elective course will cover spectroscopy and other physical methods used in inorganic chemistry. Broadly, the goal is to understand the techniques that are used to draw conclusions about the geometric structure, electronic structure, and dynamics of transition metal-containing molecules. The focus will be both on learning the fundamental physical chemistry of the relevant techniques and also on learning practical interpretive guidelines. Primary literature will be used throughout the course.

Introduction to X-ray Crystallography

Students will gain a basic theoretical and practical understanding of X-ray diffraction and crystallography. Students will have a hands-on understanding of the correct use of the college’s single crystal X-ray diffractometer. Students will solve crystal simple structures and be able to critically evaluate crystallographic results published in the scientific literature.

Medicinal Chemistry

This class will cover the drug discovery, development, and approval process.

1.            Drug targets relevant to disease states, including anti-infectives (antibacterials, antivirals), physiological targets (blood pressure, cholesterol, CNS, inflammation, diabetes), and anticancer targets.  Classes of biochemical drug targets (enzymes, receptors, nucleic acids).

2.            Strategies to find compounds: natural products, chemical library screens, rational design.

3.            Characterization of drugs’ biochemical mechanism.

4.            Optimizing compounds to minimize toxicity and maximize bioavailability.           

5.            Design of effective clinical trials, the FDA approval process, patent considerations, the placebo effect.

We will use drugs as case studies to illustrate the process. Each student will be responsible for writing a paper and delivering a presentation on a drug of their choice, covering the disease state it addresses, its target, how it was discovered and developed, how it works, and the data from its clinical trial.

Modern Techniques for Solid State Materials Characterization

The goal of this course is to introduce students to techniques frequently used in solid state materials characterization but generally not taught in a conventional Instrumental Analysis course. The course will primarily focus on spectroscopy and electron microscopy techniques. Some techniques that will be studied during the course are: Powder X-Ray Diffraction, Infrared Spectroscopy, Raman Spectroscopy, Scanning Electron Microscopy, and Transmission Electron Microscopy. For each technique, the students will be introduced to the physical principles underlying the technique, study real examples present in the current scientific literature, and discuss how the technique could be applied to other experimental situations involving metallic, inorganic, and polymeric materials. By the end of the course, students are expected to have acquired a deep understanding of the physical principles, capabilities, and limitations of each technique.
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance

This course will essentially be a study of nuclear magnetic resonance and its applications in organic and inorganic chemistry.  Topics will include basic theory, instrumentation, chemical shift, spin-spin coupling, non first-order spectra, 1HNMR, 13CNMR, multinuclear NMR, modern pulse FT techniques, and applications to organic, organometallic and macromolecular chemistry.  The course emphasizes practical applications, and includes experiments using multi-pulse techniques.
Organometallic Chemistry

In this block class we will review the major concepts of modern organometallic chemistry: main classes of compounds, common reaction mechanisms, examples of the organometallic synthetic and catalytic transformations in the modern industrial processes. Emphasis will be placed on reading original publications from scientific periodicals.

Polymers in Food Chemistry

Our family recipes, modern molecular gastronomy, and industrial food production all use the chemistry of biopolymers to manipulate the structure, texture, and perception of food. Through this course, students will gain a practical as well as theoretical understanding of food preparation and analysis. We will explore kitchen techniques, put family recipes through the experimental method, and gain an introduction to the professional field of food chemistry. Readings will combine textbook excerpts with research literature. Concepts from Organic Chemistry and Quantitative Chemistry will be applied within this new context. Though not a cooking class, in-class exercises and homework will include many hands-on and a few edible experiences.