Ryan DaBell Research
Undergraduate-level research is an important part of training for a chemistry major. All of our chemistry undergraduates will have some research experience through a semester- or summer-long internship. In addition to this, some students also have the opportunity to participate in research with faculty members at BYU-I. This will involve the examination of an important question in some facet of chemical research, and provides important preparatory training for internships, graduate school, or career development.
Students who work with me use molecular modeling tools to theoretically study interactions between molecules. The molecules of interest here are radical species and radical water complexes in the atmosphere. A radical is a molecule with an odd number of electrons. This is not the norm; most stable molecules have an even number of electrons. Radicals tend to be highly reactive; in the atmosphere they are responsible for a variety of damaging processes, including depletion of Earth's protective ozone layer or production of major smog components such as tropospheric (ground level) ozone or NO2 (the "brown haze" you often see over Salt Lake City during an inversion).
When radicals combine with water, they form a stabilizing complex that increases their lifetime in the atmosphere, thus increasing the chance that they may participate in environmentally dangerous reactions. We focus on determining the optimal geometry and stability of these radicals and their complexes, which is an important first step towards determining the reactive pathways of atmospheric radicals, and in developing kinetic models for these reaction mechanisms. This information is an important part of better understanding our atmosphere and the human influence upon it. In this work, we collaborate closely with Dr. Jaron Hansen of the BYU chemistry department in Provo, and with the Fulton Supercomputing Laboratory at BYU.
To keep a student-centered focus on our work, my group is kept small (1-4 student researchers). Participation in the group is intended primarily for those who will be pursuing graduate work in chemistry (especially in physical or analytical chemistry), but consideration will be given to other chemistry majors depending on background, interest, and experience. Students who participate in this group can expect to learn a great deal about the detailed molecular interplay between species in solution and in the atmosphere, as well as computational chemistry software and advanced computational techniques. More importantly, they will start to learn how research "works", and can experience the thrill of understanding something that has never been examined before.
Student efforts will be aimed at producing publishable results. Recent student work has been published in the International Journal of Quantum Chemistry (2011), and students have been accepted to present their work at the BYU-Idaho Undergraduate Research Conference, local, regional and national American Chemical Society meetings.