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Faculty Research

The University's model of reflective teaching and scholarship empowers the faculty and students in the College of Arts and Sciences to form a community of learners, teachers, and enquirers that is committed to active learning inside and outside the classroom. Research is part of the institutional culture, with an especially strong emphasis in the sciences, including chemistry, and scholarship requirements for rank and tenure decisions include submission of proposals and publication in peer-reviewed journals.

The chemistry faculty counts laboratory research as a vital component of chemical education and strives to educate our students beyond mastery of facts and laboratory skills toward a willingness to take the risk of asking questions whose answers are unknown. We work directly beside our students to teach by example the focused diligence necessary to reveal those answers.

Practice of such research is challenging and rewarding! Over the last ten years, the chemistry faculty, including seven tenured faculty and five instructors/lecturers, has conducted, presented, and published research with more than 300 undergraduates; all seven tenured faculty have received grants supporting their research within the last three years; all seven have published peer reviewed papers with undergraduate co-authors in the last three years.


Dr. Ronda Bard accepts the invigorating challenge of teaching organic chemistry with humility and stubbornness. She teaches lectures and labs and coordinates the organic lab courses. Her research addresses archaeometry, greener syntheses via recyclable polymers, carbanion chemistry, and public health.

Dr. Kevin Cantrell received his M.S. and Ph.D. from Oregon State University and his undergraduate degree from Furman University. He started teaching in 2000 at Willamette University and joined the University of Portland Faculty in 2001. Dr. Cantrell teaches courses in general chemistry, analytical chemistry, and environmental chemistry, and his research interests include environmental chemistry, chemical sensors, chemometrics, and automated methods of analysis. His current work is focused on the development of inexpensive and robust sensor materials and methods using consumer-grade digital cameras and scanners for quantitative chemical measurements.

Grants & Awards
  • UP Summer Science Student Scholars Program: Research Grants (Summer, 2014 & 2015)
  • M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust: Murdock College Science Research Program Grant (Summer, 2009 & 2007)
  • UP College of Arts and Sciences: Sabbatical Support at the Center for Solid Phase Spectroscopy in Granada, Spain (Fall 2008)
  • National Science Foundation: Major Research Instrumentation Grant (Co-PI) (2005-2008)
  • Research Corporation: Cottrell College Science Award (2005-2007)

Dr. Sylvia Daoud Kinzie teaches general chemistry lecture courses and labs, and her research interests aim to understand the role of manganese ligand residues in the active site of GTP cyclohydrolase-IB from pathogenic bacteria by carrying out a full spectroscopic and kinetic characterization of wild-type and mutant enzymes using UV-Vis, fluorescence, radiochemical assays, study state and transient kinetics, and HPLC analysis searching for intermediates to help uncover the mechanism of the GTP cyclohydrolase-IB enzyme reaction.

Dr. Angela Hoffman teaches general chemistry lecture courses and biochemistry lectures and labs. Her research interests include the effects of plant hormones on the biosynthesis of phenolic polymers in cell walls, the effects of stress on plants, study of plant defense molecules such as Taxol and antibiotics, and the regulation of enzymes involved in synthesis. Other research involves isolation and identification of bioactive natural products from plants and fungi. She and her students hold six patents on new processes for extracting Taxol from incubated yew cuttings, from fungal isolates and from soil in which yew trees have grown.

Grants & Awards
  • M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust: Partners in Science Grants (2008-2009, 2010-2011, & 2014-2015)
  • UP Summer Science Student Scholars Program: Research Grants (Summer, 2013-2015)
  • Saturday Academy: Apprenticeship in Science & Engineering Grants (2007-2015)
  • American Chemical Society: Project SEED Grants (2005-2015)
  • American Chemical Society: Climate Change Challenge Grant, Co-PI (2013-2014)
  • Oregon Academy of Science: Award for Outstanding Teacher in Science and Mathematics: Higher Education (2014)
  • Arthur Butine Memorial Fund: Research Grants (Summers, 2007-2014)
  • American Chemical Society: Fellow (elected 2012)
  • UP College of Arts & Sciences: Sabbatical at the University of Arizona (Spring, 2012)
  • Institute of Forestry, Chinese Academy of Forestry: Research Grant (2009)
  • The Coleman Foundation: Entrepreneurship Grant (2007-2008)
  • National Science Foundation: Major Instrumentation Grant (PI) (2005-2008)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science: Fellow (elected 2006)
  • Jack Kent Cooke Foundation: Research Grant (2006)
  • Dickinson Foundation: Research Grant (2005)

Dr. Rachel Hutcheson came to the University of Portland in 2015 and can be found teaching Biochemistry Lecture and Lab.  Previously she was at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University teaching courses that integrated material from organic, inorganic, and biochemistry.  She also taught upper division courses in chemical biology and xenobiotic metabolism.  Her research interests include bioinorganic chemistry, specifically enzymes that utilize metal cofactors, enzyme mechanisms, and use of enzymes in bioremediation.  She is currently working on investigating uncharacterized radical SAM enzymes, which are involved in reactions as varied as enzyme activation, complex cofactor synthesis, vitamin biosynthesis, DNA repair, viral inhibition, antibiotic synthesis, modification of translational machinery, sulfur insertion, and production of antitumor compounds.

Grants & Awards
  • M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust: Research Start-Up Grant (2015-2017)
  • College of St. Benedict /St. John’s University: Undergraduate Research Grant (Summer 2014)

Dr. Steve Mayer received his Ph.D. from Oregon State University and his undergraduate degree from Pacific Lutheran University. He began his academic career in 1999 at Susquehanna University and joined the University of Portland in 2002. Dr. Mayer teaches courses in general chemistry and physical chemistry and his research interests are in the area of optical spectroscopy. His current work involves investigating molecular interactions between block co-polymers and metal surfaces using surface enhanced Raman scattering, Rayleigh scattering and infrared spectroscopy.

Grants & Awards
  • Artscape, Inc. – Support for Research (Summer, 2015)
  • Moses Lake Industries – Support for Research (Summer, 2011-2015)
  • Provost’s Initiative for Undergraduate Research (Spring, 2015)
  • Northrop-Grumman Corporation – In-kind donation of equipment (Summer, 2013)
  • Oregon State University – In-kind donation of equipment (Spring, 2013)
  • United States Department of Energy: Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (Summer, 2012)
  • M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust: Visiting Scholar (Spring, 2010)
  • UP College of Arts & Sciences: Sabbatical Support at M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust (Spring, 2010)
  • National Science Foundation: Major Research Instrumentation Grant (2006-2009)
  • American Chemical Society: Petroleum Research Fund Grant (2006-2009)
  • American Chemical Society: SUMR (Supplement for Underrepresented Minority Research Fellowship) Grant (Summer, 2007)
  • M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust: Murdock College Science Research Program (Summer, 2006)
  • Juan Young Trust: Supplemental Grant (Summer, 2006)
  • Arthur Butine Memorial Fund: Research Grant (Summer, 2005)
  • Research Corporation: Cottrell College Science Award (2003-2005)

Dr. Elizabeth (Beth) Morton came to University of Portland in 2015 and teaches General Chemistry lectures and laboratories. She earned her bachelor’s degrees in Chemistry and Forensic Science from University of New Haven prior to pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemistry at Penn State University. Her graduate research focused on the interaction of materials-specific peptides with inorganic nanoparticles and aqueous nanoparticle synthesis. Her current focus and passion is teaching, and she has interests in science outreach and informal science education for K-12 students in addition to higher education.

Professor Laura Schacherer enjoys teaching organic chemistry; her research interests include free radicals, medicinal chemistry and total synthesis.  

Dr. Eugenijus Urnezius received his Ph.D. degree from Case Western Reserve University, and his undergraduate degree (Diploma in Chemistry) from Vilnius University in Lithuania. Prior to joining the University of Portland he taught at Michigan Technological University (2001-2009). Dr. Urnezius teaches lectures and labs in General Chemistry and in Inorganic Chemistry. His research interests include syntheses and investigations of redox-active coordination compounds.

Grants & Awards
  • UP Summer Science Student Scholars Program: Research Grants (Summer, 2010-2015)
  • Arthur Butine Memorial Fund: Research Grant (Summer, 2010)
  • M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust: Research Start-Up Grant (2010-2011)

Dr. Edward J. Valente is interested in design and synthesis of new compounds, identifying them by spectroscopic and crystallographic methods.   Ongoing work deals with the class of pseudoacids, or cyclic oxocarboxylic acids, and their derivatives.  This group of understudied compounds  have chemistry that parallels that of typical carboxylic acids, but the pseudoacid (lactol) function is chiral.  So also are the pseudoacyl derivatives in the corresponding categories of pseudoesters, endo- and exocyclic pseudoamides, and symmetrical and asymmetrical pseudoanhydrides.  Recent work in the group has shown that pseudoacids from aldehydo-acids  are also “pseudoaldehydes”, with a chemistry that leads to  another new class of materials.  Additionally, the group is interested in supramolecular design using compounds which show multiple, complementary Hydrogen-bonds.  The design, structure and thermal properties of these materials are under active investigation.

Grants & Awards 
  • Synergy Corporation (Foley, AL): Research Grants (2010-2011)
  • National Science Foundation: Major Research Instrumentation Grant (PI) (2006-2009)
  • W. M. Keck Foundation: Research Grants (2005-2007)

Dr. Warren Wood enjoys teaching organic chemistry courses and joined the University of Portland faculty in 2007.  His research interests include organic synthesis and medicinal chemistry.  His current work is focused on the synthesis of compounds with antimalarial properties.   

Grants & Awards
  • M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust: Murdock College Research Program for Natural Sciences Grant (May, 2015-Present)
  • Arthur Butine Memorial Fund: Research Grant (Summer, 2008-2012)
  • Medical Research Foundation: Research Grant (2009-2010)
  • M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust: Research Start-Up Grant (2007-2012)