Sep 28, 2020  
2011-2012 University Catalog 
2011-2012 University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Chemistry & Biochemistry

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The mission of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry is to:


  • Provide the best possible training for our chemistry, biochemistry, bioinformatics, and pharmaceutical chemistry majors as preparation for graduate or professional schools and their future careers.
  • Provide an excellent background in chemistry, bioinformatics, and biochemistry for nonmajors as preparation for courses in their specialties and so they can appreciate our technological society.
  • Offer minor programs in chemistry, bioinformatics, and biochemistry for those in other programs who might benefit from them.
  • Provide a quality program of graduate courses for our own graduate students and those from other departments.


  • Conduct ongoing research that contributes to the development of the sciences of chemistry, bioinformatics, and biochemistry.
  • Disseminate the results of our research through publication in professional journals and presentation to professional groups.
  • Offer to our undergraduate majors opportunities to gain research experience.


  • Participate in the life of the institution by service on University, college, and departmental committees.
  • Contribute to professional, community, and other groups when possible.


The chemical sciences are focused on understanding the molecular makeup of the substances around us, from concrete to penicillin to DNA. Chemists and biochemists synthesize new molecules and study how molecules behave in order to improve our lives. They help to develop new products, increase agricultural productivity, and reduce the incidence of disease. Careers for chemists and biochemists exist in academics, industry, and government, and individuals with chemical training find careers in many diverse areas, including medicine, patent law, government agencies, pharmaceutical laboratories, and many manufacturing facilities.

The Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry is dedicated to the education of students interested in the health and natural sciences at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

At the undergraduate level, the department offers three distinct majors leading to the bachelor of science in chemistry, biochemistry, or pharmaceutical chemistry. Students interested in pre-med or pre-law can use any of these degrees as excellent preparation for their further professional education in medicine or patent law. USciences has agreements guaranteeing places for outstanding students in medical professional programs in the region. Students in these programs complete a BS degree from USciences as well as the desired medical science professional degree. Students interested in these programs must meet with the pre-professional advisor no later than the second semester of their first year at the University.

Students may also opt to pursue an integrated MS or PhD degree and a BS in chemistry or biochemistry, completing MS degree requirements with as little as one additional year of study.

Students interested in teaching chemistry at the high school level may be able to combine their chemistry degree with the education courses needed to receive teaching certification from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Students in the chemistry, biochemistry, and pharmaceutical chemistry programs will:

  • Achieve an in-depth understanding of important concepts pertaining to all the major areas of chemistry (analytical, biochemical, inorganic, organic, and physical) and be able to apply the knowledge gained.
  • Be exposed to a wide variety of laboratory procedures and chemical instrumentation and be able to use them effectively to solve chemical problems;
  • Become aware of critical safety issues and environmental regulations.
  • Be able to use computers effectively for both scientific and non-scientific tasks.
  • Be able to explore the scientific literature using a variety of resources and communicate that information effectively.
  • Attain a high level of problem-solving and critical-thinking skills and be able to learn independently.

Although each major is designed to prepare students for a somewhat different final goal, the first two years are identical in all three curricula so that students can easily switch from one curriculum to the other as they learn more about their interests.

All three curricula provide a solid foundation in organic and inorganic chemistry in the first two years, along with supporting courses in biology, mathematics, and physics. Even in these early courses, students have the advantage of relatively small classes. The general education curriculum, completed by all students at the University, provides exposure to the humanities and social sciences, as well as providing critical oral and written communication skills.

During the course of the entire four-year curriculum, students receive training in all five major areas of chemistry (analytical, biochemical, inorganic, organic, and physical) and exposure to a variety of sophisticated instrumentation. Computer technology is incorporated throughout all three curricula, and a department computer cluster is available to support this effort. Chemistry, biochemistry, and pharmaceutical chemistry majors who complete appropriate chemistry electives will also meet the rigorous standards for American Chemical Society (ACS) certification.

Regardless of major, all students are encouraged to carry out an undergraduate research project under the guidance of one of the faculty members in the department. The large number of regular faculty ensures that students receive individual attention both in and out of the classroom. In addition, their backgrounds span all of the traditional areas of chemistry, including analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry, as well as biochemistry. Their diverse research interests provide a wide variety of research opportunities for students.

Undergraduate research gives the student the opportunity to explore one area of biochemistry or chemistry in depth and to take advantage of the more sophisticated instrumentation available. Interdisciplinary areas such as computational chemistry, supported by the advanced computers available in the West Center for Computational Chemistry and Drug Design, also provide exciting opportunities for research. The independent nature of undergraduate research is recognized as a valuable learning experience by industrial and governmental employers, as well as by graduate and professional schools.

Students are also encouraged to participate in the American Chemical Society Student Affiliate Chapter, which organizes and sponsors seminars, field trips to industrial and/or governmental laboratories, picnics, and other social activities.

Students typically have summer internship opportunities, and the University has an excellent record of placement of its graduates in graduate and professional schools, as well as in medical, industrial, and governmental laboratories.

At the graduate level, the department offers the MS and PhD in biochemistry, chemistry, bioinformatics, and pharmacognosy. (Please see the College of Graduate Studies section for more detailed information.) In addition to the research expertise of the department’s faculty members, research professors from the departments of Biological Sciences, and Pharmaceutical Sciences greatly expand the range of research opportunities available for graduate students.

For more complete information about the department’s faculty and programs, please consult the department website at

Faculty * †

Vojislava Pophristic
BS (University of Belgrade, Serbia); PhD (Rutgers)
Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Interim Chair, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Director, Center for Drug Design and Drug Delivery
Phone: 215.596.8551

Catherine M. Bentzley
BS (St. Joseph’s); PhD (Delaware)
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Phone: 215.596.8581

Edward R. Birnbaum
BS (Brooklyn College); MS, PhD (Illinois)
Professor of Chemistry
Phone: 215.596.8839

Michael F. Bruist
BS (Stanford); PhD (Cornell)
Associate Professor of Biochemistry
Phone: 215.596.8530

Lena DeLisser-Matthews
BS (Fordham); MS, PhD (Columbia)
Professor Emeritus of Chemistry
Phone: 215.596.8839

Elisabetta Fasella
BS (Universitá di Roma “La Sapienza,” Italy); MS, PhD (Columbia)
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Phone: 215.596.7514

Alfonso R. Gennaro
BS (Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science); MS (Pennsylvania); PhD (Temple)
Professor Emeritus of Chemistry
Phone: 215.596.8839

Joel Kauffman
BS (Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science); PhD (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Professor Emeritus
Phone: 215.596.8839

Yumee K. Koo
BS, MS (Yonsei, Korea); PhD (Illinois)
Assistant Professor of Biochemistry
Phone: 215.596.7546

Zhijun Li
BS, MS (Tsinghua, China); PhD (Vanderbilt)
Associate Professor of Bioinformatics
Phone: 215.596.7539

Madhu Mahalingam
BS (Delhi, India); MS (Indian Inst. of Technology, India);
PhD (SUNY, Stony Brook)
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Assistant Chair, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Phone: 215.596.7549

Charles N. McEwen
BS (College of William and Mary); MS (Atlanta University); PhD (University of Virginia)
Houghton Professor of Chemistry
Phone: 215.596.8552

James R. McKee
BS, PhD (Maryland)
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Director, Graduate Programs in Biochemistry, Chemistry, and Pharmacognosy
Phone: 215.596.8847

Preston B. Moore
BS (Bates); PhD (Boston)
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Director, West Center for Computational Chemistry and Drug Design
Phone: 215.596.7537

Elisabeth A. Morlino
BS, PhD (Bowling Green)
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Assistant Chair, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Phone: 215.596.7469

Guillermo Moyna
BS (Universidad de la República, Uruguay); PhD (Texas A&M) 
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Phone: 215.596.8526

Frederick T. Schaefer
AB (Franklin and Marshall); PhD (Wisconsin)
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Phone: 215.596.8842

Alexander Sidorenko
MS (I. Franko Lviv State University, Ukraine); PhD (National Academy of Sciences, Ukraine)
Assistant Professor of Chemistry  
Phone: 215.596.8836

Julian W. Snow
BS (Washington);
PhD (California, Santa Barbara)
Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Phone: 215.596.8837

Charles J. Thoman
BS (Spring Hill); MS (Fordham); PhD (Massachusetts)
Professor Emeritus
Phone: 215.596.8839

Nathan M. West
BS, PhD (University of North Carolina)
Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Phone: 215.596.7251

Rodney J. Wigent
BS, MS, PhD (Michigan Tech)
Professor of Chemistry
Dean, College of Graduate Studies
Phone: 215.596.8974

Murray Zanger
BS (CCNY); PhD (Kansas)
Professor Emeritus of Chemistry
Phone: 215.596.8838

Randy J. Zauhar
BS/BA (Eastern Washington); MS, PhD (Pennsylvania State)
Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Director, Graduate Program in Bioinformatics
Phone: 215.596.8691

* Additional research faculty members are associated with the graduate programs in chemistry, biochemistry, and pharmacognosy. Does not include adjunct or visiting faculty.

† More information about each faculty member can be found on our website at:

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