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1. A substance that causes a chemical reaction to happen more quickly, 2. A person or event that quickly causes change or action.

- Merriam Webster

A catalyst often speeds up a chemical reaction by providing new pathways that are more efficient than previous methods. Our department possesses a different style of catalyst – the students that make our department one of the most active undergraduate research programs in the country. Like the chemical catalyst, they create and explore new pathways to solve problems of great importance to the discipline and society. Nine research groups in the department harness these catalysts to design new molecules that may be good anticancer medications, or examine the chemicals responsible for genetic mutations that lead to birth defects, or determine the compounds that turn deadly in bodies of water when exposed to light, or provide a new probe that can examine chemical concentrations from inside living cells.

Every year more than 60 undergraduate researchers (including those from our partner institutions in multiple countries) become experts in these challenges and subsequently present their findings at scientific meetings at the local and national levels. Our faculty are the mentors that guide these researchers and obtain external funding at the national level. With faculty assistance students have secured nearly $4M over the last six years alone! Their work is conducted in modern labs with more than $2M of instrumentation rarely found at similar institutions

Even though our department has many unique research questions to answer, the true product of our work is the catalysts themselves. Armed with the experiences they gain from their research projects, our graduates have post-NKU careers that span from medical, pharmacy, and chemistry graduate programs coast to coast – to chemical industry and education – new opportunities where they can continue to be a catalyst.

Almost every major singles out their research experience and close collaboration with faculty members as the best experience of their time in our department. Here are some stories of current catalysts in our department.

Will you be our next catalyst?