Experts on "Chemistry"

Valerie A. Baggett

  • Instructor of Chemistry

Valerie Baggett loves the laboratory, as she worked in industry for 20 years in the development, testing, documentation, and marketing of scientific instruments. She is the chemistry lab coordinator overseeing the ordering, organization, and safety of the chemistry stockrooms, along with the oversight of the General Chemistry and Chem 120 laboratories. She also teaches Principles of Organic and Biochemistry, part of the chemistry requirement for nursing and some kinesiology majors. She developed the online Chemistry Placement Tutorial and is the resource instructor for iIntroduction to chemistry. She loves to see God’s attributes revealed in chemical compounds and wants her students to enjoy that too.

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Jonah Chang

  • Associate Professor

Jonah Chang’s teaching interests are in the area of chemistry; specifically in organic chemistry and biochemistry. He teaches a variety of courses to chemistry and biochemistry majors including General Chemistry I, Organic Chemistry I, Advanced Organic Chemistry and Laboratory, Biochemistry II, and Laboratory in Biochemistry. Recently, he has designed a project-based learning module in Advanced Organic Chemistry for students to develop an original proposal for a target molecule, which the students then attempt to carry out in Advanced Organic Chemistry Laboratory. He integrates his faith into his teaching most specifically when contrasting the intricate molecules and biochemical pathways found in nature against the state-of-the-art methods of the modern organic chemist.

Chang's research interests focus on the chemical synthesis of biologically active and structurally complex secondary metabolites.  The role of these molecules in the parent organism is often unknown, but they are interesting because they often inhibit targets associated with human diseases. In the process of executing a multi-step synthesis, new chemical methods are often discovered and can be elaborated into a synthetic methodology. Students in Chang's lab are trained in classical synthetic chemistry techniques including oxygen and water-free manipulations, flash chromatography for purification, and characterization of molecules using spectroscopy. Chang conducted post-doctoral research at the University of California, Irvine.

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Richard Gunasekera

  • Research Professor of Science, Technology and Health
  • Professor of Biological Sciences
  • Professor of Biochemistry

Richard Gunasekera, Ph.D., has enjoyed a 20-year career in higher education as professor and a scientist in the field of Biochemical Genetics and Forensic DNA. He earned his bachelor’s in biochemistry at Baylor University, where he researched and published in organic synthesis as an undergraduate. Gunasekera earned a master’s degree in bio-organic chemistry from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, a master’s in molecular genetics and a doctorate in Biomedical Sciences at the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Before coming to Biola in 2018, Gunasekera founded the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Houston-Victoria and acted as the Department Head and later as Director of Graduate Studies. He has held faculty and research positions at Texas A&M University Health Science Center, the University of Houston-Clear Lake, and Rice University in Houston. Gunasekera’s research now spans several interdisciplinary fields such as cancer biology, forensic DNA studies, nano-biotechnology and biochemical genetics. He has also received awards for excellence in teaching, research and as a distinguished faculty member from his previous institutions. 

Working with his students and colleagues in research Gunasekera stays committed to the student and the classroom. He believes that all teaching in the sciences is an extension of rigorous research and discovery, and that a science professor is best when he professes what he practices in the laboratory. Thus, he considers teaching both graduates and undergraduates in the classroom and laboratory in a Christ-centered environment as his first calling. He is committed to work as a team member to contribute toward building a world class institution and continue to make Biola a national leader in the sciences.

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Dana E. Johnson

  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Dana Johnson teaches General Chemistry and Biochemistry I, along with the Organic Chemistry labs. In the past, he has taught all the various iterations of the Organic Chemistry lectures. His student populations center on the B.S. in Chemistry, B.S in Biochemistry and the Pre-Health Biology majors. Johnson’s research interests include assessing learning styles and success of the student in a first-semester organic chemistry class with the goal of influencing organic chemistry pedagogy. Johnson is also the Chemistry, Physics and Engineering Pre-Health advisor through the Office of Health Professions Advising, led by Harvey Havoonjian. He advises first-year pre-health majors, and focuses on advising pre-dental and pre-pharmacy students. Johnson enjoys integrative discussions in his classroom, drawing inferences of origin from the structural arrangement of organic and bio-organic molecules.

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