Services and Activities
Testimonials from Former Research Assistants
The past 3 years at Augustana I have had the opportunity to work with Dr. James Kariuki and his research group as an undergraduate research assistant. Through this experience I gained a variety of practical skills including the ability to problem solve, become an independent researcher, and be an effective communicator through my experiences with a variety of conferences and publications. My experiences as an undergraduate researcher strengthened my CV and provided me with a strong application to secure an NSERC funded grant for graduate school. Through my time working with Dr. Kariuki, I have also been given significant opportunities to train other students both from Augustana and international institutions. This has provided me with soft skills in teaching and placed me in a leadership position in the Kariuki research group.
Dr. Kariuki is an excellent supervisor and mentor. He provides us the creative freedom to guide our own projects while being there to troubleshoot when we need the help. His students come first and he is always willing to accommodate them when needed. He also approaches his group with humor, a trademark of his teaching and mentorship style. Working alongside Dr. Kariuki has been a highlight of my time at Augustana during my undergrad and has provided me with a passion for research I will continue to pursue as I go on to graduate school.
~ Benjamin Schmidt, B.Sc. Chemistry 2019, Kariuki Group Member from May 2017-August 2019.
Working as an undergraduate research assistant (RA) was the best experience of my entire degree. I worked as a RA for three years, and, as a result, I not only gained valuable laboratory and problem-solving skills, but got to present at over a dozen conferences and published three papers. Because of this work, I left Augustana with far more than a degree: I left with practical skills and knowledge, a truly amazing resume and absolute confidence in my ability to succeed in the workforce. I also forged lasting friendships with the other members of the Kariuki research group.
James is a fantastic supervisor. He truly cares about his students, and gives his RAs independence while always being there to help troubleshoot. As part of the Kariuki research group, you have the opportunity to make amazing discoveries and work with incredible people, including James himself. If you ever have the opportunity to be involved in undergraduate research, then do it! It will be the best decision you ever make.
~Emily Ervin, B.Sc. Chemistry 2014, Kariuki Group Member from May 2013-August 2014.
My research program is focused on two main areas: The first is research that involves several aspects of electrochemistry. These include the applications of electroanalytical chemistry utilizing low-cost carbon electrodes. The second involves research that determines environmental pollutants in soil and water. The focus of the research is the determination of heavy metals using atomic absorption spectroscopy and voltammetric methods. More details of my research program are given below.
a) Preparation and Characterization of Thin Films on Carbon Electrodes
The first component of my research program is focused on the modification and use of carbon electrodes. The aim is to improve the efficiency of the carbon electrodes by changing their surface properties. The carbon electrodes are modified by attaching thin films on the surface. This is done by the electrochemical reduction of diazonium salts, which leads to covalent attachment of a thin film onto the carbon surface. Electrochemical blocking studies with cyclic voltammetry are used to study the properties of the modified carbon electrodes.
b) Development and Applications of Low-Cost Electroanalytical Techniques
The ability to design low-cost and reliable sensing electrodes for use in electroanalytical methods is an essential goal of analytical chemists that allows for making reliable but inexpensive measurements. Therefore, my research program is directed toward the development of reliable electroanalytical methods which utilize low-cost and disposable electrodes. Our main focus areas are food and environmental chemistry.
In my group, we design and fabricate electrode components with a 3D printer to be utilized in low-cost electroanalytical methods. With the increasing availability of 3D printers at educational institutions, including universities and high schools, as well as public libraries, the low-cost fabrication of electrochemical products will become more accessible to researchers and students. Our long-term goal is to fabricate portable electroanalytical kits that can be utilized outside the lab for the measurement of diverse analytes including heavy metals in water and soil samples, as well as determination of antioxidants in fruit and vegetable samples.
c) Determination of Heavy Metals in Soil and Water Samples Using Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy
This research program focuses on the determination of heavy metals in soil and water samples. The amount of heavy metals is determined using both flame-based atomic absorption and graphite furnace spectroscopy. This research area is of interest to both chemistry and environmental science majors.
"To teach is to learn twice over" ~ Joseph Joubert
As an instructor, my role is to guide students through the learning process as a coach would do with his team. The problem-solving skills my students acquire in my chemistry classes are necessary for success in whatever career they choose after graduating, a goal I continually reiterate to my students. My teaching, and thus my teaching philosophy, is focused on helping students acquire the knowledge and transferable skills needed to make informed decisions in all aspects of their lives.
In my classes, I create the conditions and atmosphere for students to learn, while I help them reach their potential. Learning is a life-long process and continues outside the classroom walls, a fact I always remind my students. Therefore, I encourage my students to keep practicing chemistry and take the skills developed in my classes to wherever life takes them next. Finally, my many years of teaching have taught me that there are no strict rules when it comes to teaching. Being flexible and responsive to students’ needs is key to succeeding in teaching and learning.
I have taught a number of chemistry courses over the years at various levels. The courses include senior and junior undergraduate courses as well as senior individual research-based chemistry courses. The courses are listed below.
Undergraduate Research Positions
Undergraduate summer research positions and independent studies during the school year are available.
Students completing research projects in my group will attain valuable experience in the fundamental concepts of method development, surface modification, chemical synthesis, and electrode characterization. Students will also gain expertise on the use of voltammetry, spectroscopy, and other equipment required to carry out the experiments described in the proposal. More importantly, because many research projects incorporate interdisciplinary fields of analytical, food, organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry, students will receive a broad-based research experience that will significantly enhance their chemistry education. Overall, my research program allows students to develop an interdisciplinary set of competitive skills that will ensure their success in chemical-based industries, graduate school, and professional programs.
For more information, email Dr. Kariuki to discuss projects that fit with your interests and strengths.
A general introduction to chemistry. Topics include atomic structure; bonding and bonding theories; periodic trends; states of matter and intermolecular forces; and chemical kinetics. Prerequisites: Chemistry 30 and Mathematics 30-1.Fall Term 2020
Theoretical and practical aspects of chemical analysis. Topics include gravimetry, titrimetry, separations, acid-base equilibria, chromatography, and spectrophotometry. Examples emphasize the utility and limitations of analytical techniques. Prerequisite: AUCHE 112. Recommended corequisite: AUMAT 110 or 116.Fall Term 2020
Study of the theory and practice of instrumental methods of analysis. Topics include atomic absorption and emission spectroscopy, fluorometry, liquid and gas chromatography, physical separations, and electrochemical methods. Examples include the analysis of chemicals with environmental importance. Prerequisite: AUCHE 220. Recommended corequisite: AUMAT 110 or 116.Winter Term 2021
In-depth examination of selected topics in Chemistry. Prerequisites: *12 of senior Chemistry, at least *3 of which must be in the subject area of the particular selected topics course.Winter Term 2021