Undergraduate-level research is an important part of training for a chemistry major. All of our chemistry undergraduates will have some research experience through a semester- or summer-long internship. In addition to this, some of our students will also be involved in research with faculty members at BYU-I. This will involve the examination of an important question in some facet of chemical research.
Students who work with me use molecular modeling tools to theoretically study interactions between molecules. The molecules of interest here are radical species in the atmosphere. A radical is a molecule with an odd number of electrons. This is not the norm; most stable molecules have an even number of electrons. Radicals tend to be highly reactive; in the atmosphere they are responsible for a variety of damaging processes, including depletion of Earth's protective ozone layer or production of major smog components such as trophospheric (ground level) ozone or NO2 (the "brown haze" you often see over Salt Lake City during an inversion). We are interested in determining the reactive pathways between organic molecules and atmospheric radicals, and in developing kinetic models for these reaction mechanisms. This information is an important part of better understanding our atmosphere and the human influence upon it. In this work, we collaborate closely with Dr. Jaron Hansen of the BYU chemistry department in Provo, and with the Fulton Supercomputing Laboratory at BYU.
To keep a student-centered focus on our work, the group is kept small, usually with a maximum of four students. Participation in the group is intended primarily for those who will be pursuing graduate work in chemistry (especially in physical or analytical chemistry), but consideration will be given to other chemistry majors depending on background, interest, and experience. Students who participate in this group can expect to learn a great deal about the detailed molecular interplay between species in solution and in the atmosphere, as well as computational chemistry software and advanced computational techniques. More importantly, they will start to learn how research "works", and can experience the thrill of understanding something that has never been examined before.
Student efforts will be aimed at producing publishable results. This summer, Mathew Snow (one of our current researchers) will be giving a talk at the Rocky Mountain Regional ACS meeting in Park City in June. In the future, other posters or oral presentations at such venues as the BYU-Idaho undergraduate research conference, the annual Idaho Academy of Sciences meeting, the ACS meetings held in spring and fall, etc. will be expected. As we continue, papers in the peer-reviewed literature will come out.
Current student researchers (Summer 2008)
Derek Osborne (Physics major; Chem. minor)
BYU-Provo (Fulton Supercomputing Lab)
Dr. Jaron Hansen, BYU-Provo (experimental instrumentation and support)
BYU-Idaho College of Physical Science and Engineering (student grants)