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Chemistry and Biochemistry

The Chemistry and Biochemistry Department is dedicated to providing a student-centered education.


Our department provides students with a student-oriented curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking and applications to interdisciplinary problems. We know that knowledge and practical experience are essential to success in the sciences, and student research is an integral part our program. We also know that college is a formative experience for developing scientists, and the direct access to faculty expertise ensures that our students have extensive support during their time at Mercyhurst.  

If you are interested in science, but unsure of a specific career path, let the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department at Mercyhurst University introduce you to a student-centered curriculum that provides both the interdisciplinary breadth and individually tailored focus to ensure that graduates have the skills and knowledge they need for graduate work, medical school, or a career immediately after college.


Our department prepares students for a wide range of careers

Our students work closely with talented faculty to learn, question and experience science, which helps them to move on to nearly any type of career in healthcare, medicine, science or technology.

As a result of this, our majors have gone on to a variety of advanced degree programs and careers, including:

  • Graduate Programs: PhD programs at Northwestern, University of Michigan, Georgia Tech, and Cornell.  
  • Healthcare and Medicine: Pharmacy, M.D., P.A., or D.O. programs at schools like Ohio State and Penn State.  
  • Industrial and Government Research: Laboratory positions at Bristol-Myers-Squibb, and national institutes including the NIH facility in Bethesda and the National Cancer Institute in Washington D.C.
  • Other Careers: Though most of our majors choose to pursue careers in scientific or healthcare related fields, our graduates have gone into a variety of other fields, including law enforcement with local police departments and with the DEA, and primary education.


Our department offers the following majors and concentrations:

Major(s) Biochemistry Major
  Chemistry Major
Minor(s) Biochemistry Minor
  Chemistry Minor
  Computational Science Minor
  Physics Minor
Concentration(s) Sustainability Studies Concentration
Certificate(s) Chemistry Education Certification

Apply online today -- it's free and getting your application started takes only a few brief minutes.  Interested students may also consult the course catalog for more information. As a liberal arts institution, all undergraduate students complete Mercyhurst's core curriculum

The Mercyhurst University Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry is committed to the education and training of the next generation of scientists. Because the nature of scientific endeavors evolves, the most important skills students in all scientific disciplines can possess are independent reasoning and problem-solving abilities. The development of these skills in our programs and courses is facilitated by the following tenets:

  • A student-centered approach to scientific inquiry within our Department. This immersion of students in the scientific process extends to all phases of our scholarly pursuits, including experimental design, data acquisition, data analysis and communication to the scientific community.
  • A focus upon the core scientific principles that constitute the foundation of all applications of science and technology. This focus is coupled with an experience-based knowledge of career related fields that are attractive to students.
  • A commitment to working with students of all experiences and backgrounds, including those who are under-represented in the sciences. An emphasis is placed upon mentoring, including the processes of academic advisement, research mentoring and sophomore review. The firm adherence to a clear set of academic standards that is necessary for the success of our students in current scientific disciplines.

These standards are upheld while providing the guidance and mentoring necessary for each student to have the opportunity for success. Students in our courses should acquire the core knowledge in the physical sciences necessary to be successful in their field and as thoughtful citizens. Graduates from our programs have the skills and flexibility to succeed in graduate or medical school, or in an applied science career such as forensics or research.

Learning Goals:   

Students will graduate from our program with:

  • An understanding of the fundamental concepts in chemistry.
  • The ability to plan and conduct scientific experiments, using appropriate techniques and procedures.
  • Effective communication skills, including interpersonal communication (both oral and written).
  • The ability to locate and understand peer-reviewed scientific literature and critically evaluate technical information.
  • The ability to recognize hazards, conduct experiments safely and to manage chemicals, including chemical wastes.

Assessed Outcomes:

Our department continually assesses its curriculum to ensure that students receive the best education that we can provide. The metrics that we use to assess curricular effectiveness include student's ability to:

  • Increase their test score on the American Chemical Society's General Chemistry Exam
  • Apply previously learned information in new contexts and situations, including using introductory information in upper-division coursework
  • Demonstrate an increased score, between matriculation in the program and the term of graduation, in the four sub-disciplines of chemistry covered on the ETS Chemistry Exam (Physical, Organic, Analytical, Inorganic).
  • Prepare for scientific experiments with appropriate background information and use the most appropriate procedures and analytical techniques for results.
  • Present scientific information in a well-organized manner and communicate in both written and oral formats.
  • Use modern scientific literature to contribute to class discussions and to complete a research-based thesis
  • Independently conduct scientific experiments in a laboratory using universally accepted safety protocols, under faculty supervision

Student research is one of the most important aspects of our curriculum. Majors design and carry out projects with guidance from a faculty mentor of their choice, often starting research during their sophomore or junior year. These projects are excellent learning experiences for future scientists and many are of our students are published in peer-reviewed journals and have their work funded by external research grants.

Faculty Expertise

Our faculty are experts in a wide range of areas, including both traditional fields in chemistry, biochemistry and physics, and emerging interdisciplinary specialties that focus on applications in medicine and industry. 

Dr. Ron Brown (Physical and Computational Chemistry)

Students in Dr. Brown’s research group use computational techniques, including electronic structure calculations and the development of Monte Carlo simulations, to investigate surface adsorption and other localized phenomena on extended systems such as carbon nanotubes and graphene.

Dr. Amy Danowitz (Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology)

Students in Dr. Danowitz' research group develop new reactions to make biologically active small molecules, and develop synthetic molecules that affect biological systems.

Dr. Clint Jones (Analytical and Materials Chemistry)

Jones Lab Research Website

Dr. Jones works with intelligent hydrogel polymers to produce nanoparticles and thin films, which capture targeted chemicals from solution.

Dr. Amy Parente (Biochemistry and Environmental Analysis)

Parente Lab Research Website

Dr. Chris Taylor (Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology)

Student projects in Dr. Taylor's research group include developing novel methods to synthesize 'drug like' molecules and using a mechanistic understanding of cancer biochemistry to find more effective drug combinations for cancer treatment.

Dr. Jack Williams (Organic Chemistry and Natural Products)

Williams Lab Research Website

Dr. Williams's research is in the area of flavors and fragrances specifically with respect to the aroma profiles of plants and foods. This research relies heavily on both 1D and 2D Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) in addition to Gas Chromatography Olfactometry (GC-O).


Amy Danowitz, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Amy Parente, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Carl Voltz, Ph.D
Laboratory Manager
Christopher Taylor, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Clint Jones, Ph.D.
Department Chair, Associate Professor
Jack Williams, Ph.D
Professor of Chemistry
Paul Ashcraft
Lecturer of Physics
Ronald Brown, Ph.D.
Associate Professor