October 16, 2014

Collaboration key to chemist's research

High tech spectrophotometers help too

Kyle Cissell’s chemistry with teaching chemistry was a late reaction.

The SVSU assistant professor of chemistry joined the academic world three years ago after beginning his professional career working for a molecular diagnostics company in Tampa. It was there — working with high school and college interns — where he decided his future should involve teaching.

“That’s really when the switch happened,” Cissell said. “I was looking for a tenure-track position, and wanted to work with undergraduates in the Midwest.

”Since joining the higher education ranks, though, Cissell hasn’t abandoned research in favor of the classroom. The Newburgh, Ind., native is a regular in SVSU’s laboratories, where he hopes his research in chemical and biochemical sensor development will enhance scientific processes such as water quality analysis and the early detection of certain human diseases. 

Cissell is one of several faculty and students involved in studies for the Saginaw Bay Environmental Science Institute, a community research-based initiative housed at SVSU. This summer, Cissell is helping develop proper quality control measures — basically, ensuring accurate results in testing — as the institute studies nearby water systems including the Kawkawlin, Pigeon and Pinnebog rivers.

Those efforts now are heightened thanks to the recent acquisition of high-tech instruments including two spectrophotometers, which measure the amount of light absorbed by material and can determine the concentration of various nutrients in that material.

“It’s a significant upgrade,” he said. The spectrophotometers and other recent technological purchases in the lab come courtesy of several grants SVSU earned as part of its SBESI initiative.

Cissell said he’s enjoyed his young career at SVSU so far.“I like the collaborative nature of the research in the school,” he said. “We have biochemists, chemists, geographers, engineers and biologists all working on projects together. It’s neat to be able to collaborate with faculty from so many disciplines.” 

Cissell, who earned his Ph.D. from Purdue-Indianapolis campus, said other undergraduate universities he's familiar with typically feature students who graduate with chemistry degree prior to pursuing a professional degree, with few entering industry. "Here, a lot of students move from SVSU into industry positions and have successful careers," Cissell said, pointing out the relations between nearby companies such as The Dow Chemical Company and Dow Corning Corp.

Cissell said he's managed to balance work with another element of his life: family. He is married to Sonja, and the couple is raisign two daughters: 18 moth old Ainsley and Laura, born May 6.

"Family is very important to me," he said.