Chemistry Research Projects

“Purification methods for aryl sulfonium ionic liquids” 

Ryan Gray

Ionic liquids (ILs) containing aryl sulfonium cations have been proposed as thermally robust solvents, lubricants, and thermal energy storing materials. Because aryl sulfonium salts display an increased long-term thermal stability, these ILs have been considered for use in high temperature conditions. However, the synthesis of these ILs often results in a product contaminated by starting materials. Contamination often results in an adhesive, amorphous product at room temperature and ambient pressure. This amorphous product is difficult to handle and poses a challenge for further synthesis steps or even transfer or measurement. Physical properties, such as melting points near room temperature and an amphiphilic nature that results in increased solubility in both aqueous and organic solutions, can lead to challenging purification. The work presented here includes the identification and analysis of various contaminants resulting from the synthesis. Additionally, purification methods that result in increased product yield and purity have been developed and presented here.


"Argumentation in Chemistry" (On-Going)

Construction of written arguments from evidence is an essential scientific practice for all students (NGSS Lead States, 2013).  Unfortunately, many students do not receive opportunities to construct arguments from evidence until later in their academic careers.  The purpose of this project is to develop writing prompts to provide explicit instruction and scaffolding around the construction of written arguments in chemistry courses.  Through development of the prompts, we will collect data in the form of written arguments which will provide a useful way to assess understanding of scientific concepts, along with students’ abilities to analyze data and generate ideas using evidence. Students interested in this project may join an established research project already in the process of data collection or propose their own specific chemical concept to investigate.  

"Student Recruitment and Retention" (On-Going)

A wealth of knowledge exists concerning why and how students choose to pursue STEM degrees (degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics), including information about why students pursue specific degrees, like chemistry.  For example, previous studies report that students chose to pursue chemistry degrees based on interest in the material, perceived usefulness of the degree to their future, alignment with career goals, having a sense of belong, and positive experiences in coursework or with professors (Adams, 2016). In contrast, little knowledge exists concerning why and how students choose to pursue a degree in industrial hygiene.  Furthermore, there exists a lack of understanding about how students’ reasons for pursuing a degree compare across institution type and region.  This project is an exploratory qualitative investigation into the motivation of students in the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Hygiene (DCIH) to pursue degrees in chemistry and/or industrial hygiene. The purpose of this research is to use interviews to identify and characterize the reasons existing students in our department chose to declare and pursue a degree in the DCIH. Students interested in this project will join an establish research project in the process of data analysis. 

"Evaluation of a shortened protocol for Controlled Negative Pressure Respirator Fit Testing" (On-Going)

(September 2019 - Present)

  • This project aims to evaluate shortened protocol options to measure the effectiveness and accuracy of a fit test as compared to currently accepted protocols (29 CFR 1910.134). The scope and methodology was finalized fall 2019. The project was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, data collection will resume in August 2021.
    • Undergraduate student researchers: Riley Duncan, Olivia Dawson, Kinleigh Clanton

"Critical evaluation of air sampling calibration techniques" (Complete)

(August 2018 - December 2020)

  • This project aimed to generate data that facilitates the choice of pressure-drop over volumetric flow rate measurement in the calibration of air sampling trains and raise consciousness regarding the need for published performance data on pressure-drop of air sampling equipment so that the choice for volumetric flow rate calibration, either directly or indirectly, can be expanded. The project was completed in two phases.
    • Phase I examined the relationship between volumetric flow rate and pressure-drop using a multi-variable evaluation. Pressure-drop at different volumetric flow rates was measured under multiple combinations of sampler design, filter brand, and pump type. Segregated and grouped data were used to find central tendency and dispersion estimators of pressure-drop at each of the flow rates specified by the sampler manufacturer. A manuscript summarizing findings was published in the International Journal of Occupational Hygiene.
      • Undergraduate student researcher: Savannah Jones
    • Phase II provided a critical review of the NIOSH jarless method for cyclone calibration. It addressed the rationale behind end point test decisions, apparent procedural gaps and, the scrutiny of test accuracy in contrast to flow rate measurements in a well-controlled, jar protocol. A manuscript summarizing findings is under review by the International Journal of Occupational Hygiene.
      • Undergraduate student researcher: Kara Nix