The Department of Chemistry, housed in the Swisher Science and Reid Medical Science Buildings, have fully equipped modern laboratories that are used in student and faculty research as well as lab courses. Instrument capabilities include Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Nitrogen Plasma Atomic Emission Spectroscopy, Atomic Absorption Spectrometry, Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectrophotometry, Ultraviolet-Visible Spectrophotometry, and Flourometry.  Computers and graphing calculators are used in the laboratories, interfacing with the high technology instruments for better data processing.

Close collaborations with the Department of Biology & Marine Science and the Marine Science Research Institute allow Chemistry students and faculty to utilize additional instrumentation and equipment such as plate readers, MALDI-TOF/TOF mass spectrometer, biosafety cabinet, and real-time PCR thermocycler. Intersections between research and policy, advocacy, and communication allow our students to integrate their scientific pursuits with other disciplines. Research opportunities are available in all areas of chemistry: analytical, inorganic, biochemistry, physical, and organic. Students are strongly encouraged to contact individual faculty members and inquire about the possibility of conducting research in the faculty member’s area of specialization.  See individual faculty members’ web pages for more information and see just a glimpse of some of these research projects below.

Research Funding Opportunities for Faculty and Students

Assessing Stress Levels and Metal Contaminant Tissue Concentrations in Atlantic Sharpnose Shark Dr. Gretchen Bielmyer-Fraser

In this research, we examined accumulation of heavy metal pollutants and anti-oxidant stress enzymes in muscle tissue of Atlantic sharpnose shark, in collaboration with Dr. Gelsleichter at UNF. The goal of this project was to assess correlations between stress biomarkers and increased metal tissue concentrations across different collection sites, sizes, and gender. These studies will provide new insight into metal accumulation and toxicity in sharks in effort to increase conservation measures.

Assessing Water Chemistry and Metal Pollution in the Lower St. Johns River Dr. Gretchen Bielmyer-Fraser

Anthropogenic impacts on the lower St. Johns River (LSJR) are being investigated and will be publicized by students in the Communications Department.  The goals are 1) To describe the presence of metals and characterize various water chemistry parameters in the main stem and select tributaries of the LSJR with different degrees of human impacts; 2) To monitor plankton populations in the main stem and select tributaries of the LSJR and attempt to attribute patterns to natural and anthropogenic influences; and 3) Publicize the resulting data using modern communication tools, such as video segments and social media.  This research is in collaboration with Drs. Annmarie Kent-Willette and Melinda Simmons. 

          spectrometer    testing     

Design, Synthesis, and Characterization of Multi-dentate Transition Metal Complexes Dr. Peter Zhao

Transition metal complexes are important for industrial applications and are in numerous enzymes. Structures, properties, and reactivities of transition metal complexes can be varied by changing either the center metal ion or the peripheral ligand substituents, leading to the formation of molecular materials with bulky properties, or bioactive molecules that can help us understand natural bioinorganic mechanisms.  We design, synthesize, and characterize multidentate ligands such as polypyrazolylborate, poly(1,2,4-triazolyl)borate, and polythioimidazolylborate due to their versatility and potential binding capability.

Metal Accumulation and Antioxidant Effects in Large Sharks         Dr. Gretchen Bielmyer-Fraser

In collaboration with Dr. Bryan Franks and OCEARCH, we are assessing metal accumulation and stress biomarkers in large coastal sharks, such as Great whites.  Reference levels of metal contaminants in the tissue samples of sharks, particularly, great whites, is lacking.  This study would help to increase knowledge about baseline metal concentrations in the sharks, and metal accumulation and effects in these top level carnivores.  The objective of this project is to better understand how humans are affecting great white sharks.  We aim to provide new information about the relationship between metal bioaccumulation and chronic stress in large sharks at the top of the food web which may give insight into the impact of metals in coastal ecosystems. 

Microcystis Algal Blooms Dr. Anthony Ouellette

Excessive nutrients and warm waters allow Microcystis and other phytoplankton to grow rapidly to high concentrations.  In addition to blocking sunlight to submerged plants, the decomposition of blooms can lead to significant declines in oxygen in the water.  Both of these situations can wreak havoc on aquatic ecosystems.  Furthermore, the production of liver toxins (called microcystins) by Microcystis cause another level of concern.  Students use ELISA, MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, and fluorescence to investigate these blooms and to analyze correlations between chlorophyll levels and microcystin levels as a way to predict toxicity in local waters, as well as identify areas that are particularly prone to toxic events.

Vibrio Bacteria in Sisters Creek Oysters and Water Dr. Anthony Ouellette

Vibrio are bacteria that thrive in warm, estuarine waters.  As is common with aquatic bacteria, Vibrio are found attached to particles in the water, and thus can accumulate in filter feeders such as oysters.  Students study potentially pathogenic Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus in local waters by analyzing the DNA and proteins of these bacteria that they isolate.  The main study site is in Sisters Creek, which is part of the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve and was at one time a shellfish harvesting area. 


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Department of Chemistry and Physics

Office location

Merritt Penticoff 132
2800 University Blvd N
Jacksonville, FL 32211

Telephone number

(904) 256-7325