Faculty Research

Professor Mark Engen

Analytical/Atmospheric - Mark A. Engen

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

Professor Jeanne Franz

Analytical/Environmental - 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.   

Professor Sara Hein

Organic/Natural Products - Sara M. Hein

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. 

Professor Robert Kopitzke

Polymer - Robert W. Kopitzke

The broad topic of my research is polymer synthesis and characterization. At the moment projects are in two areas:

1.) Synthesis and polymerization/copolymerization of partially fluorinated monomers.

2.) Synthesis and polymerization of nanoparticle attached conducting polymers.  
Professor Myoung Lee

Biochemistry - 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 portrait

Computational Chemistry - Hannah Leverentz

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.

Professor Francis Mann

Biochemistry - Francis Mann

Research focuses on the synthesis and mode of operation of bioactive natural products. Current research projects include examination of the hypoglycemic effect of kombucha fermented tea, biotransformation of anthocyanins during fermentation, and the role of isoprenoid carrier lipids in cell growth and resilience.  


Biochemistry - 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.  


Professor Thomas Nalli

Organic - 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, Polymer Chemistry, Free-Radical Chemistry, and Organic Synthesis. Current projects include:

* Poly(oxy-1,4-phenyleneethynylene-1,4-phenylene); Preparation and Properties

* GC/MS Determination of sterols in commercially-available dried mushrooms

* NBS bromination of 3-bromocyclohexene

* Synthesis of an uncommon sterol identified in morel mushrooms, ergosta-5, 22, 24(28)-trienol  
Professor Vincent Sichula

Organic - Vincent Sichula

My multidisciplinary research interests fall in the broad categories of materials for organic electronic devices applications, renewable energy, catalysis and medicinal chemistry. I am particularly interested in and have focused on: 1) organic dye-sensitizers for solar cells, 2) organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), 3) molecular water oxidation catalysts, 4) catalysts for electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide to methanol, and 5) synthesis of small molecule inhibitors of the ClpP Peptidase for tuberculosis research, 6) DNA damage and repair for skin cancer research. The research work primarily involves design, synthesis, photophysical and electrochemical characterization of compounds.  


Inorganic - 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: 1) 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, and 2) natural products with multiple Lewis basic sites provide interesting scaffolds for transition metal binding by offering multiple binding patterns and conformational possibilities.  


Professor Jennifer Zemke

Physical Inorganic/Chemical Education - Jennifer Zemke

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.