ABAC Professors promote Chemistry Research

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By: Douglas Wright: Staff Writer

  Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College has a surprisingly diverse range of research projects being conducted on the Tifton campus. Because of this, I have decided to interview any willing professors who are currently conducting research or are planning to start research projects here soon.

   According to the Merriam-webster dictionary, research is defined as the “investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts…”. Due to this, research is not unique to one field of study, and aside from specific research organizations, the most common place to find research being conducted is a college campus. Plenty of professors either conduct post-doctoral research or research for their doctorate in general, and this is more consistently seen at larger universities with master’s or doctoral programs already established.  

I interviewed Dr. Kennon Deal, a popular chemistry professor here at ABAC Dr. Deal is a Georgia native, hailing from around Bristol, Georgia. He received his B.S. from Georgia Southern University and received a Ph.D. in Bio-Analytical Chemistry from Auburn University. He has been a professor at ABAC since Fall 2015 and is a prominent professor to students interested in pursuing a medical career. Dr. Deal’s research focuses on testing pollutants in water sources that are close to agricultural environments, but an interesting aspect of this research is that his research is specifically looking at reducing the device size required to test these pollutants. This would lead to a reduction in cost, required materials to make the reaction happen, and the overall inconvenience of having to use a typical lab set-up to perform the same experiment.

  According to Dr. Deal, this could lead to these important pollution tests being performed on devices the size of a postage stamp! As far as student involvement in research, Dr. Deal is currently filling out student positions, but he has said that that may change as his students graduate. Any student interested in participating in this research would receive invaluable experience in most science-based professions but would find the largest benefit going into some form of biological engineering or agricultural engineering field.

 I also chatted with Dr. David Rhode, another popular chemistry professor at the main Tifton campus. Originally hailing from Ames, Iowa, Dr. David Rhode spent most of his life living in Pennsylvania. He graduated with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Tennessee in 2001 and began working at ABAC in 2018 when Bainbridge College in Bainbridge, Georgia merged with ABAC; Because of this, he has been living in Tifton and working at the main ABAC campus since spring of 2020. Dr. Rhode’s research is a new endeavor for the professor, and he is taking an indirect approach towards his major with this project.

  This is because his research deals with the chemical curcumin, which is found in the cultural spice turmeric. Specifically, he is focusing on trying different methods to remove curcumin from turmeric rhizomes (little spores on the root of the plant). This can hopefully lead to further research on the effects of extracted curcumin in the human body, and the effects of chemically modified curcumin in the human body as well.

  Dr. Rhode currently has two students lined up to help but is willing to potentially take more students. This research is being conducted under the Gail Dillard faculty enrichment fund as well, a fund that is not exclusive to the biology department alone. This research can be incredibly beneficial to students interested in biochemistry or pharmaceutical fields, but even students who are interested in industrial/general chemistry, ethnobotanical (medicinal botany), or agricultural marketing majors could benefit from this research.

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