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Undergraduate chemistry researchers working towards practical solutions

Photo via Bradley University

The pandemic has created a new and dangerous environment, especially for immuno-compromised individuals. The need for immune-response drugs — which ensure that viruses are attacked instead of healthy tissues  — has increased as well.

In the Department of Biochemistry and Chemistry, Bradley chemistry research professor Dean Campbell and his research students are researching catalysts (substances that increase the rate of reaction) using nanoparticles (minute portions of matter that are between 1-100 nanometres) and corn syrup content in commercial sodas in relation to these concepts.

“In the nanoparticles projects, I am excited that we are trying to help reactions proceed so they require less energy,” Campbell said.

Two of Campbell’s students, sophomore Zaman Shah and senior Bozana Lojpur, are exploring these topics alongside him.

“The catalysts … help in immune response drugs,” Shah, a chemistry pre-med major, said. “Our catalysts will be able to help these companies easily separate the copper catalysts from the reaction mixture. Both of these will make it much cheaper to make these immune response drugs.”

Campbell provides sufficient opportunities for undergraduate students to not only obtain research experience but also to explore practical applications of their research as well.

“This project is important because not only does it cover quantifying high-fructose corn syrup in commercial sodas, but it allows us to explore the two methods of analysis and how they are correlated,” Lojpur, a chemistry business major, said. 

Before his work with undergraduate students, Campbell chose to focus on chemistry out of unexpected circumstances. He noted reading one general chemistry textbook which referred to the field as the “central science.”

“That’s a pretty bold claim, but chemistry does connect to a lot of other fields,” Campbell said. “Chemistry is the study of matter, and, well, that matters to a lot of fields. Oddly enough, I came out of high school [saying] that I would go into any science field except chemistry.”

Campbell has achieved much in relation to chemistry and his research, including his blog posts and research posters from the Bradley Research Expo. On top of all of this, he has created outreach programs that cater to all age groups.

“The purpose of this subgroup of the Chem Club is to educate people about science through live outreach events involving demonstrations,” Campbell said. “Members of the target audience range from pre-K to gray.”

Research students can participate in the outreach events. From teaching about UV beads to dipping items into liquid nitrogen, students, kids and adults can obtain new knowledge at every event.

Shah, Lojpur and other research students of Campbell’s say they have had nothing but positive experiences with him.

“My favorite part about working in Dr. Campbell’s lab is being able to work with other people in the lab that you normally would not interact with otherwise,” Shah said.

Campbell’s research has a wide world of applications waiting to be explored and taught.

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