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Summer Learning: Chemistry Professor Dan Morris Leads Students in Scientific Discovery
July 11, 2011
Dan Morris combines his love for teaching with the inquisitive nature of research to open new worlds of scientific discovery for Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology undergraduate chemistry and biochemistry students.
Besides teaching courses in general chemistry, analytical chemistry, and engineering chemistry, Morris has helped a long list of students complete research projects for industry clients and developed presentations/papers for national science conferences.
"There's a balance between teaching and research at Rose-Hulman that I enjoy and find very rewarding," says the professor of chemistry.
This summer, Morris is supervising chemical engineering student William Hart in a project to better understand how selenium compounds act as anti-oxidants and prevent oxidative DNA damage. This research will provide a better understanding of how selenium works as an anti oxidant, provide a better understanding of how to prevent and treat certain diseases, and offer a possible partnership with the University of Cincinnati for further research into oxidative damage.
"We have exceptional students who desire undergraduate research experiences that complement their classroom studies," states Morris, who earned the Board of Trustees' Outstanding Scholar Award in 2010. "Research opens opportunities for me, but students also benefit greatly . . . summer is a great time for students to get totally immersed in an area in which they might be interested for a career or graduate studies."
Morris joined a group of Indiana University (IU) faculty on a project examining the nanoscale assembly of biomolecular complexes. This project was funded through the National Science Foundation's Collaborative Research in Chemistry Program. The grant included summer support for Rose-Hulman undergraduate students to be involved in the project.
One of the students, Steve Marczak, received a travel grant from IU to present his research at the Second Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium in Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida State University.
In other projects, Morris supervised chemistry students to help Beckman Coulter Inc. investigate current microfluidics technology for potential future products. A literature search into soybean processing helped the Central Soya Company determine ways to reduce or eliminate sulfur emissions during processing. Another project developed a prototype to help CSL Limited determine ionic cleanliness of circuit boards.
Morris, who joined the Rose-Hulman faculty in 1996, has also been an Innovation Fellow at Rose-Hulman Ventures, a visiting scientist at Eli Lilly & Company, West Virginia University, and University of Virginia. He has one patent and projects funded by NSF, the W.M. Keck Foundation, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, and Joseph and Reba Weaver Undergraduate Research Program.
"Research provides valuable insight through a student's exploration into new areas of science," Morris says. "It might be tedious at times, but I find myself enjoying the research experience, especially when I'm engaged with students."