McMurry Chemistry - Faculty

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry Faculty and Staff

 Paul Pyenta

Dr. Paul S. Pyenta
Associate Professor, Chair
Biochemistry & Biophysical Chemistry

B.S. & B.A. - Wayne State University 1993 (Detroit MI)
Ph.D. - Cornell University 2000 (Ithaca NY)

Office: 216 Science
Phone: (325) 793-3880
e-mail: ppyenta@mcm.edu

Research Interests:
I am interested in general applications of biophysical chemistry techniques using fluorescence. These techniques are very adaptable and applicable to a variety of scientific questions, and include fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), fluorescence microscopy, image correlation spectroscopy (ICS), fluorescence photobleaching recovery (FPR), and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS). The power and flexibility of such fluorescent techniques is advantageous for many research areas of chemistry and biochemistry. For example, the composition and structure of mammalian cellular membranes is becoming recognized as a more highly organized and active player in many cell processes than previously suspected. Any and all techniques listed above would be useful for investigating the biophysics of membrane component interactions responsible for such developing observations. More importantly, the techniques lend themselves to myriad opportunities for collaboration and the promotion of interdisciplinary research with other faculty members and other departments. I am interested in implementation of such biophysical techniques as a resource to progressive undergraduate research.

Teaching Interests:
I am interested in the interdisciplinary aspects of chemistry education. The modern face of science is continually changing, and the methods of teaching undergraduate students must reflect this. The rigid lines dividing the classic disciplines of chemistry, biology, and physics have given way to nebulous boundaries imbued with unforeseen opportunities. I am interested in developing courses and exploring with studens these areas of interdisciplinary science. On an advanced undergraduate level, I enjoy teaching biophysical chemistry as a logical alternative to pure physical chemistry for biochemistry and biology students. The two-sequence of physical chemistry is the most mathematically challenging part of any undergraduate chemistry degree. Few if any non-chemistry majors ever enroll in a physical chemistry course, and biochemistry students may not be able to easily relate and adapt the topics to their field. This is unfortunate. Many principles of physical chemistry are commonly employed in other fields such as biochemistry and biology. Biophysical chemistry offers an exciting alternative, and includes topics such as advanced enzyme kinetics, basic quantum mechanics, fluorescent techniques, such as confocal microscopy and fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), and molecular diffusion theory.


Dr. Pamela Veltkamp
Professor
Analytical Chemistry

B.A. - Dordt College 1984 (Sioux Center, IA)
Ph.D. - University of Colorado at Boulder 1991 (Boulder, CO)

Office: 222 Science
Phone: (325) 793-3881
e-mail: veltkamp@mcm.edu

Pam Veltkamp

Research Interests:
My research focus is in Chemical Education.  I am interested in finding and developing better ways to teach college-level chemistry, both in the classroom and in the laboratory.  This focus also includes studying how students approach a particular topic in chemistry and elucidating the errors that students may hold.  Such knowledge about the thought processes used by students can then be used to develop more effective ways of teaching the topic.

Teaching Interests:
I teach the general, analytical, and environmental course in the department.  These currently include General Chemistry I and II, Quantitative Chemical Analysis, Instrumental Analysis, and Environmental Chemistry.  I have been using Process Oriented Guided Inquiry (POGIL—see www.pogil.org) in General Chemistry and am beginning to apply this teaching method to other courses.  I am also involved in teaching Leadership in Science and Mathematics, a general education course that meets the requirement of the Leadership, Excellence, and Virtue portion of the general education curriculum.


Dr. Edward Donnay
Associate Professor
Inorganic Chemistry

B.A. - University of St. Thomas 1996 (St. Paul, MN)
Ph.D. - Washington University 2002 (St. Louis, MO)

Office: 217 Science
Phone: (325) 793-3878
e-mail: donnay.edward@mcm.edu

Ed Donnay

Family and Personal Interests:
Hello, my name is Edward Donnay and I was born and raised in Wadena, Minnesota.  It is a small town of approximately 4500 people located in the center of the state.  In addition to my parents who still reside in Wadena, I have two brothers, a niece, and a nephew that live in Minnesota.  I have a third brother who is a Catholic priest with the Crosier order and he lives in their community in Phoenix, Arizona.

Outside of work I enjoy reading, cooking, watching TV, and playing strategy games.  I am a long distance fan of Minnesota sports teams, particularly the Twins.  When I exercise I play racquetball, walk, and shoot hoops.  My favorite TV shows are Mythbusters, Family Guy, Dirty Jobs, CSI, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Research Interests:
As a synthetic inorganic chemist I am interested in making new and unusual transition metal complexes.  One area of study is the synthesis of ruthenium and chromium complexes that contain three diimine or polypyridyl ligands.  The ability to fine tune the environment around the metal centers by changing the ligands will allow us to tailor the molecular properties to approach various problems.  For example these types of complexes have been proposed as possible anticancer agents through their use in photodynamic therapy (PDT).  In this respect, chromium compounds have an additional advantage due to the ability of the excited state to directly oxidize guanine, a DNA base, without oxygen being present.  However, chromium compounds are more difficult to prepare and study than the ruthenium alternatives.  Furthermore, the delivery and binding of the transition metal complexes to DNA is still an area of intense investigation.

I am also interested in addressing synthetic problems or issues that are brought to my attention by colleagues inside academia or local industry.  Collaboration and bringing multiple approaches to a problem is the best way to find innovative solutions.  The goal is to involve students in these projects to allow them to become familiar with current issues.

Teaching Interests:
In addition to teaching Inorganic and Physical Chemistry, my teaching duties usually include General Chemistry and Chemistry in Society (a course designed for non-majors).

Along with Dr. Veltkamp, we have revised the approach used to teach General Chemistry. We have switched to an inquiry-based approach with hands-on group activities replacing some or the entire traditional lecture format.  We continue to stress the importance of scientific writing and safety procedures while teaching the laboratory portion of the course.  We also include more biochemical topics to better serve the interests of students who take the course.

As a consequence of the change in topics covered in General Chemistry, some material must be taught in other courses such as Inorganic Chemistry.  I am trying to develop a sophomore level course to include this material and complement the upper-level course already being taught and boost interest in this often “forgotten” area of chemistry.  This change would further align the curriculum to the one advocated by the American Chemical Society.

As mentioned above, I also teach Physical Chemistry and have worked to collaborate with the Advanced Laboratory class offered by the Physics Department.  Working as a research team with people trained in different fields is an essential skill that students should be exposed to early on.


Hyunshun Shin

Dr. Hyunshun Shin
Associate Professor Organic Chemistry

MS., Drexel University 1998
(Philadelphia, PA)
Ph.D., Drexel University 2001
(Philadelphia, PA)
Postdoctoral Study: University of Pennsylvania 2001-2006
(Philadelphia, PA)


Office: 215 Science
Phone: (325) 793-3879
e-mail:
shin.hyunshun@mcm.edu

Family and Personal Interests:
Since I was young, I’ve been happy to be around people. It has become a hobby to observe and study people’s behaviors and attitudes, including family members, co-workers, students, friends and even myself.   Interestingly, some people have bettered the quality of their lives; others don’t in professional or personal relationships.   As an educator, I am concerned about improving students’ life and learning skills. In organic and medicinal chemistry, the attractive forces of molecular interactions play a crucial role in chemical reactions. Likewise, interactions with one another in human relationships have a great impact on positive (attractive) or negative (repulsive) brain activities related to learning.  My second hobby is a joyful movement of the body such as dance, aerobics, and exercise along with meditation. In a way, I want to learn more about how body motions affect brain activities and balancing life. My finding so far is that balanced chemical reactions in the body system play a crucial in the quality of life.  The more I study chemical reactions on molecular and macroscopic levels, the more I see interesting connections between chemistry and human relations.

Research Interests:
My research interests include the application of structure-based drug discovery towards the design and synthesis of bioactive substances targeting cancer and bacterial infection.  The research focus of the Shin group is new analogues of small molecules which may be useful for the treatment of cancer, and infectious disease via Structural Activity Relationship (SAR) studies. Our group research program is divided into two categories: (1) reducing tumor or cancer cell proliferation by investigating arginine biosynthesis and histone deacetylase activities, and (2) killing or reducing the growth of bacterial cells in lipopolysaccharide (LPS) biosynthesis with our new compounds.  Other studies have shown that tumor tissues have significantly higher polyamine levels than surrounding tissues. Cell proliferation can be regulated by small, aliphatic polyamines.  The major biologically active polyamines present in mammalian cells are putrescine, spermidine, and spermine.  We evaluate biological activities of small molecules in vitro or in vivo in on-going collaboration work with other research groups.

Teaching Interests:
My teaching interests are congruent with my personal interests and some applications of my research. My teaching interests are to improve students’ learning skills through chemical and biological education. Learning is a lifelong process; it does not begin or end in class during a certain period.  I have tried to challenge students to understand a concept and principle, to make a connection of these materials to real life, and to put it into practice through problem solving.  My teaching approach in class uses those analogies that link science to real life applications so that students can appreciate science and chemistry.  They learn to make use of the principles and concepts in their future career.  I hope the role I play as an educator in the chemical sciences bridges the biological and medicinal fields, and makes learning more accessible.  


Mr. Steve Davis
Laboratory Manager
Chemistry and Biology

B.S. - McMurry University 1998

Office: 218 Science
Phone: (325) 793-4937
e-mail:
davis.steve@mcm.edu
Steve Davis

Being Laboratory Manager is one position on campus where routine rarely applies. Being directly involved with faculty from Chemistry and Biology, a working science background has been essential to help meet the needs of both faculty and students. My position at McMurry may involve setting up experiments, negotiating prices with vendors for equipment purchases, helping new faculty, supervising student workers, chemical/hazardous waste management, safety equipment inspection, working with contractors, working with different departments on campus, and greenhouse and plant care. I see the focus here at McMurry being on the success of the student and their educational endeavor. Knowing I had a part in their success is a personal benefit I get from my work.