LV Life Editor
Although the chemistry department at the University of La Verne consists of only four faculty members and 70 students, the research they do is anything but small.
Iraj Parchamazad, chemistry department chairman and professor of chemistry, is continuously involved with researching new technology.
More than a decade ago, he saw potential with Zeolite.
Zeolite is a naturally occurring crystal, with pores that have a very high electric field. It acts as a nanoreactor structured inside chemicals and can reduce carbon dioxide by using solar energy and quantum dots.
One thing Zeolite can do is remove hormones from drinking water with solar energy.
For the last several years, students and faculty members in the chemistry department have been focused on energy projects, such as developing fuel cell and hydrogen technology.
Most of the research is related to alternative energy and nanotechnology, including Zeolite technology.
The department has recently established various connections and received grants and funding from the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense and private companies for the research projects.
Parchamazad hopes to start start a company with the patents and prototypes obtained through the research chemistry department is doing with students.
“We believe the University can have several corporations based on Zeolite technology,” Parchamazad said.
“(The innovations) can get patented and get a lot of revenue for the University and the chemistry department to reduce our dependence on student tuition,” he said.
The chemistry research projects brought in $4 million to $5 million for the University in the last several years.
Parchamazad believes that funding can assist in obtaining more patents and gaining entrepreneurial opportunities for the department.
“The research we do is not only for publishing but for innovation,” Parchamazad said.
“I want to encourage the University to use the possibilities of creating a spinoff company like other universities, such as Caltech or UCLA,” he said.
For example, Utah State University has raised $500 million from research and patents in recent years.
“The University of La Verne should start to support this approach and science departments can start, and others will join,” Parchamazad said.
The University is reputable for working with Zeolite and nanotechnology.
Many national lab groups come to the University and want to provide funding for these projects, Parchamazad said.
The students in the chemistry department are all involved in programs such as Research Experience for Undergraduate nationally and internationally outside of school.
The U.S. Department of Energy, Department of Defense and National Science Foundation sponsor many of these programs.
“The research institutions open their eyes and give them a lot of experience,” Parchamazad said. “When they return, they’re really different.”
The research can also help build community engagement because the students are researching in hopes of impacting other people.
“If they can really do something for the community, it is a good example of the La Verne Experience,” Parchamazad said.
Students can find jobs after graduation more easily due to the hands-on experiences with various instrumentations, research and education, Parchamazad said.
The chemistry department provides an education that follows the American Chemical Society guidelines. The upper-level students learn through hands-on research.
“The chemistry department takes pride in being small and close-knit with all of the faculty,” said Katherine Bay, junior chemistry major.
“My chemistry professors not only provide top-notch education but also acts as great mentors and help with career and professional advancement,” she said.
Bay’s research includes synthesizing triradical compounds and using them for photoreduction of carbon dioxide in Zeolites.
“Although it’s a difficult major, it comes with great perks when graduating with high-level knowledge in the classroom and in the laboratory,” Bay said.
“The research in the sciences at the University of La Verne by the other faculty that I have seen is high quality work, especially given the common limitations of a four year liberal arts university such as limited space and lack of graduate student researchers,” Andrew Rice, visiting assistant professor of chemistry, said.
Although Rice has only been at the University for three years and he is not involved with research, he is aware of the department’s research agenda.
He said the faculty members and students contributed significantly to the chemistry department research.
Parchamazad believes the future for chemistry is very open and broad because fields related to chemicals, engineering and biology are all ultimately related to chemistry.
However, the limitations of the laboratories and safety issues can be obstacles to providing sufficient experiences for students.
“The department is getting more involved in research and they’re having more hands-on applications,” Ricardo Morales, associate professor of chemistry, said.
“The number of students is increasing so the department is increasing too,” he said adding that the department could use more faculty to accommodate the increasing numbers.
“Once the department grows, the funding will grow too,” he said.
Cody Luk can be reached at email@example.com.