James Kariuki, PhD, MSc, BSc

Professor, Augustana - Sciences


Professor, Augustana - Sciences
(780) 679-1550
C170 Classroom Building
4901-46 Ave
Camrose AB
T4V 2R3




  • PhD in Analytical Chemistry, University of Alberta
  • MSc in Analytical Chemistry, Kenyatta University
  • BSc, Chemistry major, Mathematics minor, Kenyatta University

Services and Activities

  • Member, Augustana Committee of the Learning Environment (2012-2015, 2018-present)
  • Member, Augustana Faculty Evaluation Committee (2015-2018)
  • Member, Augustana Curriculum Committee (2006-2008)
  • Member, Standing Committee on Convocation
  • Member, International Students Engagement Committee
  • Member, Augustana Campus Annual Theme (2016-2017)
  • Member, Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC)
  • Many chemistry outreach activities at local schools
  • Reviewer for Journal of Chemical Education, Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, Analyst, Analytical Chemistry, Electrochimica Acta

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.

Selected Publications

  • Schmidt, B.; King, D.; Kariuki, J. Designing and Using 3D-Printed Components That Allow Students to Fabricate Low-Cost, Adaptable, Disposable, and Reliable Ag/AgCl Reference Electrodes. J. Chem. Educ. 2018, 95(11), 2076-2080.
  • Ervin, E. M.; Kariuki, J. K. Demonstrating the Minimal Impact of Cultivation Conditions on Antioxidants in Fruits and Vegetables by Differential Pulse Voltammetry. Int. J. Food Prop. 2016, 19, 826-836.
  • Kariuki, J.; Ervin, E.; Olafson, C. Development of a novel, low-cost, disposable wooden pencil graphite electrode for use in the determination of antioxidants and other biological compounds (Invited). Sensors 2015, 15, 18887-18900.
  • Ervin, M. E.; Kariuki, J. K. Effect of Extraction Method on Antioxidant Determination in Produce by Differential Pulse Voltammetry. Int. J. Electrochem. Sci. 2014, 9, 6235-6245.
  • Ervin, M. E.; Adams, B. T.; Snyman, N.; Phenix, C. P.; Kariuki, J. K.; Rempel, B. P. Carbohydrate-Modified Electrode Surfaces Sensitive to β-Glucosidase Enzyme Activity. Int. J. Electrochem. Sci. 2014, 9, 6043-6048.
  • Merichel, M.; Kariuki, J.; Turner, C. Quantification of Individual Phenolic Compounds’ Contribution to Antioxidant Capacity in Apple: A Novel Analytical Tool Based on Liquid Chromatography with Diode Array, Electrochemical, and Charged Aerosol Detection. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2014, 62 (2), 409-418.
  • Kariuki, J. K. An Electrochemical and Spectroscopic Characterization of Pencil Graphite Electrodes. J. Electrochem. Soc. 2012, 159(9), H747-H751.
  • Esch, J. R.; Friend, J. R.; Kariuki, J. K. Determination of the Vitamin C Content of Conventionally and Organically Grown Fruits by Cyclic Voltammetry. Int. J. Electrochem. Sci. 2010, 5, 1464-1474.
  • King, D.; Friend, J.; Kariuki, J. K. Measuring Vitamin C Content of Commercial Orange Juice Using a Pencil Lead Electrode. J. Chem. Educ. 2010, 87(5), 507-509.
  • Kanda, V.; Kariuki, J. K.; Harrison, D. J.; McDermott, M. T. Label-Free Reading of Microarray-Based Immunoassays with Surface Plasmon Resonance Imaging. Anal. Chem. 2004, 76(24), 7257-7262.
  • Furdui, V. I.; Kariuki, J. K.; Harrison, D. J. Microfabricated Electrolysis Pump System for Isolating Rare Cells in Blood. J. Micromech. Microeng. 2003, 13, S164-S170.
  • Kariuki, J. K.; McDermott, M. T. Formation of Multilayers on Glassy Carbon. Langmuir, 2001, 17, 5947-5951.
  • Kariuki, J. K.; McDermott, M. T. Nucleation and Growth of Functionalized Aryl Films on Graphite Electrodes. Langmuir, 1999, 15, 6534-6540.

Selected Presentations

  • Kariuki, J.; Schmidt, B.; King D. (2019). Development and Testing of Low-Cost Electrodes and Components for Use in Electroanalytical Sensors,102nd Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition (CSC), Quebec City, QB, Canada.
  • Kariuki, J.; McGinitie, E.; Nickel, S.; Schmidt, B. (2019). Undergraduate Research: Benefits and Challenges of a High-Impact Practice,102nd Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition (CSC), Chemistry Education Division, Quebec City, QB, Canada.
  • Kariuki, J.; McGinitie, E.; Nickel, S.; Schmidt, B. (2019). Triumphs and Challenges of Undergraduate Research, High Impact Practices in Higher Education: Research and Application, Augustana Conference on Undergraduate Research and Innovative Teaching (ACURIT), University of Alberta, Augustana Campus, Camrose, AB, Canada.
  • Kariuki, J.; McGinitie, E.; Rempel B. Two-Stage Exams as a New Tool for Student Assessment. ACURIT, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus, Camrose, AB, Canada.
  • Kariuki, J.; Schmidt, B. (2018). Development of Low-Cost Electroanalytical Sensors. 101st Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition (CSC), Edmonton, AB, Canada.
  • Kariuki, J.; Olafson, C.; Ervin, E. (2017). Development and Electroanalytical Applications of Low-Cost Pencil Graphite Electrodes. 100th CSC, Toronto, Canada.
  • Olafson, C.; Kariuki J. (2016). Analyzing the Effect of Brewing Method on Antioxidant Content of Coffee Using Activated Pencil Graphite Electrodes. 30th Western Canadian Undergraduate Chemistry Conference, Winnipeg, Canada.
  • Kariuki, J.; Olafson, C.; Ervin, E. (2016). Utilization of a Low-Cost Pencil Graphite Electrode for Electroanalytical Analysis. 99th Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition, Halifax, Canada.
  • Kariuki, J.; Rempel, B.; McGinitie, E. (2016). Colour in Our World: Using Colour Changes to Visualize Chemical Reactions. University of Alberta, Augustana Campus, Faculty Talk Series, Camrose, Canada.
  • Marynowski, C.; Kariuki, J. (2015). Utilizing Chemistry Demonstrations to Enhance Student Learning with. Our Lady of Mount Pleasant Catholic School Chemistry Demonstrations Presentation, Camrose, Canada.
  • Kariuki, J.; Ervin, E.; Olafson, C. (2015). Low Cost Electrochemistry: Current and Future Applications. International Symposium on Chemical Innovation, Education and Commercialization, Canmore, Canada.
  • Kariuki, J.; Ervin, E.; Olafson, C. (2015). Voltammetric Determination of Antioxidants with a Low-Cost Pencil Graphite Electrode. 98th Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition, Ottawa, Canada.
  • Kariuki, J.; Olafson, C.; Ervin, E.; Duan, J.; Marsden, N. (2015). Chemistry That You Can See: Chemistry Demonstrations. Junior High Grade 9 Students, Camrose, Canada.
  • Kariuki, J.; Rempel, B. (2014). Fun with Chemistry: Chemistry Demonstrations. Augustana Campus Science Olympics, Camrose, Canada.
  • Ervin, E.; Kariuki, J. (2014). Using Pencil Graphite Electrodes for the Determination of Antioxidants in Fruits and Vegetables. Student Academic Conference, Augustana Campus, University of Alberta, Camrose, Canada.


"To teach is to learn twice over" ~ Joseph Joubert

Teaching Philosophy

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.

Courses Taught

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.

    • AUCHE 110: General Chemistry I: A general introduction to chemistry. Topics include atomic structure, bonding and bonding theories, periodic trends, states of matter and intermolecular forces and chemical kinetics.  

      • AUCHE 112: General Chemistry II: Continuation of AUCHE 110. Topics include thermodynamics, free energy, equilibria, acid-base chemistry, buffers, oxidation-reduction reactions, electrochemistry, and nuclear chemistry.

      • AUCHE 220: Analytical Chemistry: 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. 
      • AUCHE 222: Instrumental Analysis: 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.
      • AUCHE 279: Physical Chemistry: Topics include the laws of thermodynamics, chemical equilibrium, surface chemistry, chemical kinetics, catalysis, spectroscopy, and photochemistry.
      • AUCHE 320: Analytical Chemistry III: Theory and application of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry.
      • AUCHE 324: Research Techniques in Analytical Chemistry: An advanced analytical laboratory course utilizing spectroscopic, chromatographic and electroanalytical techniques. The emphasis will be on the application of the instrumental techniques for the analysis and identification of unknown samples.
      • AUCHE 405: Selected Topics in Chemistry: In-depth examination of selected topics in chemistry.
      • AUCHE 410: Senior Mentorship Experience: The course involves weekly laboratory instruction for general chemistry (AUCHE 110 and 112) labs. The senior students enrolled in the course will be responsible for the supervision of students during first-year labs, as well as for mentoring junior students who will be assisting in the lab. An important component of the course is reflective assignments about the teaching experience.
      • AUCHE 397/399: Directed Reading I/II: Supervised literature review research project.
      • AUCHE 390/392: Senior Project I/II: A research project on a specific topic in chemistry determined jointly by the student and the professor.
      • AUCHE 490/492: Advanced Project I/II: A research project on a specific topic in chemistry determined jointly by the student and the professor.
      • AUCHE 497: Directed Reading III: Supervised literature review research project.


      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.


      AUCHE 110 - General Chemistry I

      A general introduction to chemistry. Topics include atomic structure, periodic trends, bonding, molecular shapes and Lewis structures, states of matter and intermolecular forces, functional groups and IR spectroscopy. Prerequisites: Chemistry 30 and Mathematics 30-1.

      AUCHE 220 - Analysis I

      Theoretical and practical aspects of chemical analysis. Topics include titrimetry, separations, acid-base equilibria, chromatography, and spectrophotometry. Examples emphasize the utility and limitations of analytical techniques. Prerequisite: AUCHE 112 or AUCHE 212 (2022) or AUCHE 214. Recommended corequisite: AUMAT 110 or 116.

      AUCHE 221 - Analysis I Lab

      This is a lab course that introduces students to the principles and techniques of analytical chemistry. Laboratory experiments will include analysis techniques that involve titrimetry, electrochemistry, spectrophotometry and chromatography. Prerequisites: AUCHE 112 or AUCHE 213. Corequisites: Recommended AUCHE 220.

      AUIDS 101 - First Year Seminar

      Selected topics that highlight the interdisciplinary nature of the Liberal Arts and Sciences. This seminar-style class is the first course in Augustana's Core. The focus and content of each course are determined by faculty interests, and vary from year to year.

      AUSCI 425 - Senior Mentorship Experience

      This course will involve weekly laboratory instruction for general chemistry (AUSCI 125 and AUCHE 213) labs. Students enrolled in the course will be responsible for supervision of students during the labs as well as mentoring of junior students who will be assisting in the lab. Students will be expected to attend weekly technical meetings on lab logistics, safety and procedures. In addition, students will attend weekly seminars on teaching practice, communication and student mentorship experience. An important component of this course will be reflective assignments about the teaching experience. Prerequisites: 3rd or 4th year standing. Consent of the instructors based on successful completion of the selection process.

      Browse more courses taught by James Kariuki

      Featured Publications