Dr. Alexandra C. Stenson,                         

                                                       Associate Professor



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  Undergraduate Research Information: In this lab, we do analytical chemistry. Analytical chemists are essentially the detectives of

   chemistry. We use clever techniques and instrumentation to discover what is in a sample. The tools we use the most are HPLC (high pressure

   liquid chromatography) to separate components of a sample from each other and MS (mass spectrometry) to identify them. In addition, we use a

   host of tools and techniques ranging from state-of-the-art to definitely very old-school (e.g., dialysis, extraction, metal-affinity chromatography,

   hydrogen-deuterium exchange, even synthesis, when the situation calls for it). We frequently have the most fun around here when we are a little

   bit out of our element and have to discover how to work something new (or how to fix it).




                                     analytical Chemistry

  The main analytical problem we tackle in this group is the structural characterization of aquatic humic substances (which are what organic

   such as trees and leaves decay to over time). This is a project as complex as the characterization of biomolecules was in its day, and arguably

   as important. For example, humic substances and humic-mimetics (synthetically made complex mixtures of compounds that we think resemble

   humic substances), have been shown to be virtual panaceas (i.e., medicine that can cure nearly anything; viral disease, bacterial disease, and

   cancer). Even more exciting, humics can do this without poisoning the host at the same time. They are so non-toxic, you could almost sprinkle

   them on your morning eggs (they even smell a little like herbal salt, though we don’t recommend you use them in that fashion). However, since

   humics and humic-mimetics are extremely diverse mixtures of compounds for which we do not know the structures, it is impossible to identify

   any particular active ingredients. Therefore, it is impossible to formulate any useful drugs until we know more, or at least identify some common

  structural features.


   Besides working on humics and throwing any tool in the building at them (as well as some you have to travel to Florida to use), we also work on

   collaborations with other scientists. That is when we get to play with some pretty funky compounds. Some of them come to us already charged;

   others balk at the valence rules we learned in freshmen chemistry (e.g., Nitrogen with 4 bonds, Oxygen with 3). It can be a challenge to make the

   instrument treat these molecules just right; not to break them up or fuse them together. We also sometimes have to come up with ways to

   automate things or to trick the instrument into more sensitivity. It’s these multifaceted applications and challenges that keep analytical chemistry

   interesting and, at times, entertaining.










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Last Updated: June 19, 2013 9:37 AM



June 19, 2013