• Associate Professor of Chemistry

    Gilmer Hall, 209
    (434) 223-6171
    pmueller@hsc.edu


Years ago I took up the mantra, "I teach Organic Chemistry as a process."

And for me learning to teach has been a process: Early on, my teaching emphasized thinking about Organic Chemistry as a beautiful, interconnected web of mechanisms providing a basis for understanding biological and physical processes. As I matured, the process I found more important and rewarding was the process of teaching students how to learn not just about a complex discipline but also about themselves and how they learn. The method used in my classroom is POGIL -- a group-based guided inquiry learning method that encourages and facilitiates students' development of the "process skills" of analytical thinking, problem solving, critical reading, communication, time management, and metacognition. In the process, I have learned to pay more attention to teaching my students than to merely teaching my subject.

  

Education

Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1980
B.S., St. Olaf College, 1975

Courses taught recently

Techniques of Chemistry - our Introductory Lab (Chem 151-152)

Chemistry and Art - a non-majors course (Chem 107)

Organic Chemistry (Chem 230-231)

Intermediate Lab - a second-year lab sequence that prepares students for independent research (Chem 251-252)

Advanced Lab - independent research with seminar (Chem 351, 352, 451, and 452)

Rhetoric 102 - a writing course that is part of a College-wide program 

Research Projects with Students

The research projects that my students and I pursue fall into three areas:

Our foremost effort is the design and modular synthesis of a new series of organic ligands whose fluoresence properties change when they complex with Zinc ions or the ions of other transition metals. These compounds are useful in measuring small concentrations of metal ions in solution. They also have the potential to serve as probes for metals in biological systems using fluorescent microscopy. 

We also use chemistry to explore issues in the arts. We have a project exploring new methods for making aniline dyes and a project testing ceramic glazes for their suseptibility to leach metals ions.

Finally, my students and I work collaboratively with Dr. Kristen Fischer, a bioengineer at the College, on projects making materials that can be explored as scaffolds or as enhancements for cell cultures in tissue engineering studies.