Faculty Research


Mark A. Engen


The development of methods and techniques for the analysis of trace gases in background air.

We have been developing sampling and analysis methods to measure the soil/atmosphere exchange rates of important greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.


Jeanne L. Franz


In recent years, a significant portion of ground and surface waters have been found to be contaminated with materials of human origin. These chemicals include pharmaceuticals, personal care products, hormones, and microbeads.

My lab focuses on novel methods of detection for these emerging contaminants. In addition, my research is focused on educating the public about the importance of sustainability in everyday practices.

Currently my lab is working on a project which will measure the instantaneous air quality in Winona and transmit that information to a visual display and mobile device. This information will then be combined with a message about how renewable energy can improve air quality.


Sara M. Hein

Organic/Natural Products

I actually have several interests in research I pursue. I am interested in isolating bioactive metabolites from fungal sources, which involves a lot of chromatography and structural elucidation.

I am interested in synthesizing target molecules that have bioactive relevance, sometimes things that have been isolated. I am also interested in pursuing most any novel and practical project that my students come up with.

In addition, I like to conduct educational research on best practices for teaching chemistry.


Robert W. Kopitzke


The broad topic of my research is polymer synthesis and characterization.

At the moment, my projects are in two areas:

  • Synthesis and polymerization/copolymerization of partially fluorinated monomers
  • Synthesis and polymerization of nanoparticle attached conducting polymers

Myoung E. Lee


Type 2 diabetes affects 28 million Americans and its prevalence is on the rise. As many as 1 in 4 Americans could be affected by 2050 if recent increases continue. Alzheimer’s disease is an age-related, neurodegenerative disease that affects 5 million Americans.

These two diseases share certain metabolic disorders in common and the connection between the two diseases has grown stronger in recent years. Our research group is interested in the studies of small molecules and proteins that have been implicated in both type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

We study the effects of small molecules on protein activity, glycation of proteins, and amyloid formation. We utilize biochemical approaches to understand the molecular mechanism of action of these agents.


Hannah Leverentz-Culp

Computational Chemistry

The earliest stage of cloud formation, which is called atmospheric nucleation, cannot be observed experimentally with current instrumentation. Computational modeling methods are required in order to investigate the mechanisms behind this process.

However, simulations of this process can quickly become prohibitively expensive in terms of computer time and memory requirements when many molecules are involved. In order to slow the scaling of computational cost with system size, fragment-based methods have been developed.

These methods have been shown to achieve good accuracy for the calculation of various properties of systems containing molecules believed to be involved in the atmospheric nucleation process.

The goal of my current work is to test the accuracy of some of these methods for modeling proton transfer reactions, which is a chemical reaction that is likely to occur during atmospheric nucleation.


Jonathon Mauser


Dr. Mauser’s research interests are in understanding the molecular basis of complex cell polarities in the fruit fly neural stem cell.

His lab uses a broad range of techniques to better understand the process of cell polarity through these proteins and how misregulation of the system can lead to cancer-like symptoms in mutant animals.

Students interested in cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, or medicine are encouraged to contact Dr. Mauser and learn more about his research program.


Thomas W. Nalli


Tom Nalli’s students work on a broad range of projects that span several sub-branches of organic chemistry.

These include Natural Products Chemistry, Physical Organic Chemistry, and Organic Synthesis.

Current projects include:

  • Determination of phenyl radical rate constants using F-19 nuclear magnetic resonance
  • Determination of phytosterols in dried morel mushrooms
  • Mechanism and regiochemistry of sequential allylic brominations in Wohl-Ziegler reactions

Emily Ruff


Dr. Ruff’s research explores the conformational changes involved in enzyme mechanisms.

Her group uses techniques from molecular biology and biophysics, including fluorescence spectroscopy and kinetics, to investigate how enzymes work and how they can be targeted by drugs.

She is also interested in developing new experiments for Biochemistry teaching labs.

Students interested in biochemistry, biophysics and medicine are particularly encouraged to contact Dr. Ruff to learn more.


Joseph West


My research interests revolve around identifying geometric preferences in simple inorganic systems and resolving the driving forces that lead to them.

Through both synthetic and computational approaches I am investigating:

  • cyclodiphosphazanes and cyclodisilazanes, simple four-membered ring systems of N and P or Si, that present numerous electronic and structural possibilities through their one simple structural motif
  • natural products with multiple Lewis basic sites provide interesting scaffolds for transition metal binding by offering multiple binding patterns and conformational possibilities

Jennifer Zemke

Physical Inorganic/Chemical Education

Dr. Zemke and her research students are interested in synthesizing and characterizing materials, typically nanomaterials, for various applications including solar cells and wastewater treatment.

Additionally, Dr. Zemke and her students do research in chemical education regarding the correlation of student math preparedness to success in general chemistry.