Department of



Our Chemistry department offers students the chance to study the world on the most microscopic level so that we might better understand God and His process of creation. We encourage intellectual curiosity about the way the world works, both growing an understand to better ourselves and to use this miracle of science to better aid our neighbors.


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At Northwest Nazarene University, Chemistry students choose to focus on general chemistry, biochemical or environmental chemistry. All students are prepared for careers based on chemistry, in industry, research, academics, and forensics. The chemistry degree program at Northwest Nazarene University emphasizes the core disciplines of the field, provides experiences with modern instruments and laboratory techniques, and places students in faculty-mentored research projects. All this allows students to begin to participate in this field throughout their academic careers.
Chemistry is a field full of opportunity for those dedicated to research and discovery. The department provides students hands-on experience to better prepare them for careers in physical and biological science where they must practically apply their knowledge. These future chemists are taught the intricate workings of atoms and molecules so that they might contrast new medicines, energy sources, and safety procedures to adapt to humanity’s ever-evolving needs. The department prepares its students for such a path by instilling chemistry disciplines with biblical principles. Students who graduate from our Chemistry department might use their degree to research natural phenomena as an environmental scientist, piece together crime scenes as forensic chemists or serve in their community as a healthcare professional or science teacher.

Current Research Led by NNU Faculty

Dr. Daniel Nogales
Dr. Nogales and his students research the non-covalent bonding properties that biological systems use for transport, catalysis and cell signaling. Examples of these projects are outlined below.
DNA Stacking Mimic: It is well known that hydrogen bonding is used to recognize the base pairing of A-T and G-C in DNA and U-T and G-C in RNA. The double helix of these macromolecules is formed by a number of interactions one of which includes π-π electron interaction (π-stacking) between the base pairs as well as size and shape. Using organic synthesis, a molecular tweezers molecule (figure 1) with a cleft distance of 9 Å can mimic the base stacking in DNA and investigate the key molecular reactions. To demonstrate the importance of π-π interactions, figure 2 shows the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin intercalating into DNA as one of the mechanisms to kill cancer cells. Determining the extent of these small interactions is important to gaining full knowledge of cellular function as well as guidance towards new diagnostic techniques and treatments for disease.

Figure 1: Molecular Tweezers


Figure 2: Chemotherapy Drug in DNA



Reversible Capsules: Proteins are macromolecules that perform cellular tasks such as transport and catalysis of chemical reactions. A protein that catalyzes a chemical reaction in a biological system is an enzyme. Enzymes have a high affinity for the substrates needed for a chemical reaction, bringing them together in the correct orientation and allowing the chemical reaction to occur followed by the release of the product. In a similar fashion, a self-assembling reversible capsule can bring two substrates together, perform a chemical reaction and then release the product acting as an artificial enzyme. A reversible capsule could also transport smaller molecules for drug delivery. Micelles are real world examples of how small molecules and vaccines can be delivered into a person and enhance treatments. A synthetic capsule could perform the same task safely and effectively.

Figure 3: Reversible Molecular Capsule Cartoon

Dr. Jerry Harris

Dr. Harris is working to understand how nanoparticle's physicochemical parameters such as size, shape, method of synthesis, and surface alterations influence the material's chemical, photochemical, and antibacterial properties. The group works with ZnO and NiO and enhances the nanoparticle's antibacterial properties by incorporating extracts from plants with historically shown antibacterial properties. The project seeks to determine how the plant extracts used during synthesis influence the composition, size, shape, and chemical reactivity of the nanoparticles and determine how the incorporation of plant extracts alters the Minimum Inhibitory Concentrations (MIC) and IC50 values of the materials against a panel of bacteria. The nanoparticles are typically prepared by alkali precipitation, as described by the equation 1.


[Zn(O2CCH3)2(extract)2](aq) + 2 NaOH(aq)  ZnO(s) + extract(aq) + 2 NaO2CCH3 (aq) + H2O    Eq. 1


Examples of some of the ZnO nanoparticles prepared by the group are shown in the figure below.

Figure 1. ZnO nanoparticles prepared by alkali precipitation.


The students synthesize and then characterize the nanomaterials using several analytical techniques, including UV-Vis and IR spectroscopy, TGA, XRD, and TEM. The students learn chemistry laboratory synthesis techniques and increase their skills using chemistry instrumentation. The students also determine MIC and IC50 values for both the nanomaterials and the pure plant extracts against a panel of bacteria, including Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Bacillus subtilis, and Staphylococcus aureus.


As part of the research experience, the students present their results at regional and national conferences, including but not limited to ICUR, INBRE, and Murdock regional conferences and the national American Chemical Society conference.

Dr. Timothy Anstine
Photoisomerizable Molecular Switches:  During the past summer, Dr. Timothy Anstine performed research on photoisomerizable molecular switches. The following reactions were completed and the products 1, 2, 3, and 4 were purified by various methods and characterized using 1H-NMR, 13C-NMR (from UNR) and IR. Rotaxane 4 is being crystallized for crystal structure analysis.

Faculty & Staff