Chemistry is the study of how atoms interact with each other and how this knowledge can be applied to change the physical properties of compounds. Chemistry isn't just pharmaceuticals -the Breathalyzer, nitroglycerin (both a powerful explosive as well as a treatment for heart conditions) and indoor/outdoor sunglasses all exist thanks to chemistry research. Chemists work in career fields ranging from agriculture to medicine to art forgery analysis.
Through the chemistry program, you will apply microscale analysis to macroscale, real-world challenges through academically rigorous, intellectually stimulating lectures, discussions and lab work. The program offers two tracks of study, chemistry - professional, for those interested in graduate school or careers in industry specifically in chemistry; and chemistry - liberal arts, for students who are completing two majors, especially with the intention of going into medicine and the health sciences. The program also offers teaching licensure for grades 5-12. Students in all tracks have the opportunity to conduct a year-long research project.
Professors who teach in the chemistry program have expertise in organic chemistry, surface chemistry and biochemistry. Biochemists work with things that are alive on a relatively large scale, studying molecules made up of relatively large numbers of atoms like cells, enzymes, proteins, and DNA. Organic chemists look at things that are much smaller - including single atoms - and see how they react with larger structures like the aforementioned cells and proteins. Surface chemistry looks at how reactions occur on solid surfaces (called "substrates"), and how the layering of different molecules can affect these reactions. The uses for such technology include the manufacture of waterproof raincoats and coating glass for mirroring and tinting.
BVU's chemistry labs contain a broad base of analytical equipment. Like many of the items found in the School of Science, having the equipment is not unusual for a science program. What is unique is having them all in one place and being able to use them regularly as an undergraduate, with accessible professors on hand to show you how to use them.
Among the items in the chemistry lab are a NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) Spectrometer, a FTIR Infrared Spectrophotometer, a Gas Chromatograph, a HPLC (High-Performance Liquid Chromatograph), a Fluorescence Spectrophotometer and an AUTOPOL II Automatic Polarimeter.
These instruments are unique but complementary; when used together, they allow chemists to form wide-ranging pictures of matter and properties across different spectra of composition and light. The chemistry program also maintains strong relationships with other area colleges and universities, allowing students access to other technologically sophisticated equipment. For example, in 2010, students worked with the X-Ray diffractometer at the University of South Dakota.
BVU's fully-equipped Optics Lab uses light to investigate material on the atomic scale through a variety of optical hardware, lasers and test equipment, including lenses, mirrors, mounting hardware and detectors. These instruments observe light at different wavelengths (including visible light, ultraviolet, and infrared) across the spectrum to see how they react on surfaces, and how different chemical layers can change the reaction. Other applications include the improvement of microchips and conductive properties of metals. The lab provides opportunities - not commonly found at undergraduate institutions - for research and pre-professional students, including those interested in optometry.
In addition to on-campus research opportunities, chemistry students have the option to conduct research through the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) initiative from the National Science Foundation. In REU programs, students spend eight to 10 weeks in the summer doing research at major institutions, supported by stipends with room and board expenses covered. These programs enable students to earn money, experience the laboratory environment and make professional connections at different universities for continued study. Students have also presented their research at meetings of the Midwest Regional American Chemical Society.
In 2009, two chemistry students completed REUs at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, earning $5,000 each for 10 weeks of work. Their findings were published in professional journals: Zane Gernhart, Class of 2010, saw the paper "Growth of  Textured Gadolinium Nitride Films by Chemical Vapor Deposition" appear in the journal Chemical Vapor Deposition in September 2010. He co-authored the paper with three other people from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Chemistry Department. The paper "BC based solid state neutron detectors: the effects of bias and time constant on detection efficiency" - co-authored by Keith Foreman, Class of 2010, and three other people - was accepted to the Journal of Applied Physics. Publication is forthcoming.
Aspects of the chemistry program embrace the "green chemistry" movement. "It's more of a mindset than anything else," says Dr. Melanie Hauser, assistant professor of chemistry. "In our labs, for example, the hoods are 'smart', so when the lights turn off, the hood air flow goes down to save energy. We try to use non-toxic solvents when possible for experiments. Doing these things with 24 students in a class doesn't make that much of a difference on its own, but if those students can apply it when they go out into 24 different places, it can change a lot."
If you have data, you want to make sure that it’s not junk. After the data is collected, you have to recognize if it has significance. Once you get the data, you have to interpret it. There are a lot of experimental and observation skills needed to be a good chemist. It’s dense material, and we try our best to make it exciting and interesting by frequently relating it to real world challenges.