Undergraduate research
(CHEM 498, CHEM 499H)
Possible to start undergraduate research as early as after passing CHEM210

Dr. Petr Vanęsek
Northern Illinois University
Department of Chemistry
Room: LaTourette Hall 418
DeKalb, IL 60115-2862 (U.S.A.)
Telephone: (815) 753-6876
Facsimile: (815) 753-4802
E-mail: pvanysek€

    We are interested in properties of interfaces that form between two phases in contact, either as a solid/liquid interface or as immiscible liquid phases such as water and oil. The primary focus is on electrochemistry of such interfaces. Although electrochemistry is considered a part of analytical chemistry, our projects involve all five branches of chemistry--analytical, in sensor and methods design; biological, in studies of biologically active substances; inorganic, in studies of metal extraction mechanisms; organic, in investigation of electrochemical properties of organic compounds and in synthesis or organic conductors; and ultimately, in physical chemistry, which, of course, is the basic principle of all electrochemical research.

    Many projects available for the undergraduate research projects are in the area of physical electrochemistry, electroanalytical chemistry and electrical properties of materials, which can be completed within the limited time available for the undergraduate research, can be pursued. Main interest of our research group is in the study of the interfacial structure, in ion and charge transport, and in modeling of transport through pores and channels. Modern electrochemistry is quite active in this field which is called the electrochemistry of microdomains.

    Example of an applied research project is corrosion study of aluminum alloys. We know aluminum as a shiny metal that usually tarnishes only very little. But it also suffers corrosion, which can be difficult to see and can be sometimes very dangerous, as aircraft engineers will attest. If you look closely at the "alloy" wheels available on some cars, and see what salt did to them after a few winters, you will also notice some damage. In our laboratory we will take samples of aluminum alloys and study conditions that promote or inhibit corrosion. A computer collects most of the data and the experiment can often run, unattended, overnight.

    The cost of corrosion to the society is estimated to be almost 10% of the gross national product. Although corrosion of aluminum, typically an inert metal, has much smaller share in this expense, it has come recently to the front of attention of corrosion specialists. There is in existence very good paint system for aluminum aircraft, both civilian and military. However, one of its components, ion of chromium, was declared environmental hazard and this type of corrosion protection is no longer available and so far, there is not an adequate alternative. Since corrosion is inherently part of electrochemical studies, we became recently involved in several aspects of corrosion, realizing the timeliness and importance of such work.

    Advanced methods of electrochemistry are used in the research; potentiometry, cyclic voltammetry, impedance measurements, signal noise analysis and optical measurements using fiber optics and light deflection techniques. Results are usually evaluated using a personal computer. Word processing equipment with a laser printer is also available for writing the honors thesis and research manuscripts.

    Although undergraduate students are encouraged to participate in work complementing the current projects, the projects do not have to be confined strictly to electrochemical applications. Even studies in materials science can be pursued. The optical measurements are suitable to people interested in non-electrochemical aspects; studies on microinterfaces comprise a new and fast developing field of analytical chemistry. Active participation in an ongoing research is encouraged so that the work will produce a quality publication in a scientific journal. Work experience in our laboratory will prove helpful in pursuit of admission to a graduate school.

The students will be responsible for their own attendance and for efficiently using their time in the laboratory to accomplish their work. The students should seek help from the faculty and other students in the laboratory. The research and teaching schedules of the faculty are very busy - you should not expect input from the faculty if you do not meet them. 

    The above research is possible either as part of CHEM498 or CHEM499H, for credit and grade, or for independent research, supported by the professor, if funds are available.

498. RESEARCH (1-6). Individual study of a problem in experimental work or
theory. Includes instruction in the use of the chemical literature and the delivery of
research presentations. May be repeated to a maximum of 12 semester hours.
Written report required each semester. PRQ: Consent of department.

499H. RESEARCH (1-3). Same as CHEM 498, but for honors students.

Petr Vanęsek
Last updated: 13 September 2006

Placed on this web from another location: 24 August 1998 
Last revised: 04 December 2009 09:18

© Petr Vanęsek
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