Winkelmann Research Group

Dr. W's Research Group

Research in our group includes chemical research of chemistry (of course), nanotechnology, and environmental science. Our group performs education research related to these subjects as well. Students interested in chemical research can study the impact of nanomaterials on the environment, measure trace concentrations of organics in soil to determine the influence of climate change, and study kinetics of photochemical reactions. Current education research topics include evaluating the efficacy of virtual labs for general chemistry and  developing new nanotechnology lab experiments for first-year students. Read descriptions of our ongoing projects and  projects. We welcome graduate and undergraduate students studying chemistry or in any other program to join us and contribute to these exciting fields of research. 

Diverse research interests require collaborations. We work with other chemistry faculty at Florida Tech and other schools as well as chemists in industry. We also collaborate with faculty and students in aeronautics, biology, chemical engineering, education, materials and aerospace engineering, mathematics,  physics, and psychology. Much of this work is funded through grants listed on our group's Funding page and results are published in peer-reviewed journals listed on our group's Publications page. You can read about news and events of our group below and read about Winkelmann Research Group members on the People page

Group News


February 2020

Career Change
I am pleased to share with everybody that I will be joining Valdosta State University starting in July as their new Chemistry Department Head. This is an exciting career move for me. I am very much looking forward to using the skills and experience that I have gained at Florida Tech to advance the teaching and research goals of the VSU Chemistry Department. Go Blazers!


January 2020

New Publication
What a great way to start the year - our manuscript, Learning gains and attitudes of students performing chemistry experiments in an immersive virtual world, appears in the January 6 issue of the journal Interactive Learning Environments. You can read the abstract in the August 2019 update below. Thank you to all my coauthors and reviewers. 

In addition, I will be presenting two talks at the Spring ACS meeting in Philedelphia:

General chemistry students perform as well in a virtual world as they do in a real-world laboratory

Effect of nanoparticles on plant health: Nanotoxicology experiment for first-year students

My second presentation is part of a nanotechnology education symposium that I am co-organizing with Drs. Riam Abu Much and Thomas Waitz. My UCF collaborator, Dr. Julie Donnelly, will present our analysis of physical chemistry course syllabi in her talk "Learning-Centeredness of Physical Chemistry Courses as Evidenced by Syllabi." I am looking forward to an educational conference and reconnecting with colleagues.


December 2019

Seasons Greetings!
As we wrap up anothe semester, I wish everybody a happy, relaxing holiday! I look forward to a productive and exciting year of research and teaching in 2020!


November 2019

Invited Lecture
Dr. W presented an overview of the current state and future of nanotechnology education in a plenary lecture at the 's 8th annual research conference in San Diego. This talk described how nanotechnology researchers can adapt their projects for teaching laboratories so that students better understand cutting-edge research. Incorporating sustainability into lab experiments can increase students' interest in the subject and improve their motivation to learn. This, in turn, leads to deeper learning and a better ability to apply their knowledge.


October 2019

Spring 2020 ACS Symposium
Along with Drs. Riam Abu Much (The Academic Arab College for Education in Haifa, Israel) and Thomas Waitz (Georg-August-University in Germany), Dr. W is co-organizing a nanotechnology education research symposium at the spring 2020 ACS meeting in Philadelphia. Nanoscale science and technology is an interdisciplinary field that addresses the creation of materials, devices, and systems at the nanoscale, having fundamentally new properties and functions. These properties are utilized for developing new applications that significantly affect our everyday life. Nanoscience will continue to be one of the most important reasons for progress and prosperity in the 21 century. This obligates us to raise awareness and knowledge about it in order for the public’s understanding to be in parallel with scientific advancements. Several educational nanotechnology programs have been developed for both formal and informal education, including course design, lab experiments, activities, and teaching models. The symposium is a platform for presenting the most important developments in nanoscience education, which will include scientific background and key curricular ideas.


September 2019

X-FILEs Student Jam
Our eXploring the Future of Innovative Learning Environments (X-FILEs) project continues with supplemental funding from the National Science Foundation. This support will enable my collaborator,  of Penn State University - Altoona, and I to host a student-focused workshop in February 2020 at Florida Tech. This day-long jam (similar to a hackathon) will challenge students from colleges and universities across Florida to design ways to improve STEM education using innovative educational technologies, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, mobile learning, etc.


August 2019

Manuscript Accepted
The journal Interactive Learning Environments has accepted our manuscript describing results of an NSF-funded study of college students' cognitive and non-cognitive gains when performing interactive virtual experiments. The abstract states:

Virtual worlds are increasingly popular in educational settings. In order to further usefulness in providing a laboratory education, almost 300 students participated in a study to determine the relative learning gains and attitudes related to performing two chemistry experiments in either the virtual world of Second Life (SL) or a real world laboratory. The participants were traditional college students enrolled in a General Chemistry 2 course at a large public university. Student grades, responses to multiple surveys, and written comments were collected over two spring semesters that the experiments were implemented. Students performing the Second Life experiments performed as well or better than students conducting equivalent experiments in a real world laboratory based on quiz and lab report grades. Students held a favourable view of the experiences in Second Life, noting that the SL setting minimized distractions and made certain aspects of the experiments easier to perform. A large majority of students performing the SL experiments enjoyed and recommended them. Male and female students performed equally well and showed equivalent attitudes in all aspects of this study.

We anticipate this article will appear in late 2019 or early 2020. Thank you to my coauthors and the student participants.


July 2019

More Graduation Congratulations
I am very pleased to congratulate our latest Winkelmann Research Group graduate -  Salomey Sasu. Dr. Sasu defended her dissertation, "Analysis of n-Alkanes and n-Alkenes in Chukchi Sea Sediments" in May then joined  as a Research Scientist. Congratulations Salomey!


June 2019

What Does Your Syllabus Say about You?
A syllabus conveys to students a lot about a class. Using a rubric developed by Michael Palmer, et al. to measure the degree that a syllabus focuses on learning and demonstrates a supportive attitude towards students, Dr. Julie Donnelly at the UCF Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (and Florida Tech Chemistry alumna) and I are reviewing physical chemistry syllabi. We expect that outcomes of our research will help faculty reevaluate the way they present themselves to students in their syllabus and help orient faculty towards a more student-centered approach to teaching that better promotes learning.


May 2019

Graduation Congratulations
Mr. Brendan Swiger graduated with his Bachelor's degree in Chemistry (Research option). Brendan leaves our group with co-authorship on three peer-reviewed articles. He took on some of the hardest research projects that I had available and achieved great results. We wish him the greatest success in his future!


April 2019

Theses Complete
Congratulations to Ms. Salomey Sasu for completing her dissertation defense! She will graduate in July but already has a Research Scientist position at EK Laboratories. While research publications and high college rankings are wonderful, it's the personal and financial success of our graduates that demonstrates Florida Tech's excellence. Congratulations Salomey!

Mr. Brendan Swiger completed his senior thesis, "Quantification of Silver Nanoparticle Yield for Common Synthesis Methods." This was the most challenging undergraduate research project that I have supervised. Brendan did a great job overcoming many unexpected difficulties.


March 2019

Research Presentations
Dr. Winkelmann was honored to give an invited presentation to , a Second Life-based community of science scholars, students and enthusiasts, about his research of student learning in the virtual world of Second Life. Although his Second Life research began in 2009, this was the first time he has   Second Life. It was a very enjoyable opportunity to share experiences working with students in Second Life with other fans of science and virtual worlds.

Ms. Salomey Sasu presented her research of analysis of Arctic soil sediments and the detection of n-alkanes and n-alkenes at the Florida Academy of Sciences annual meeting, held at Florida Tech. Congratulations to Salomey for sharing her research at this event!


February 2019

A Little Goofing Off
While students continue working in the lab, writing dissertations, and getting ready for graduation, the next generation of researchers is already learning how fun chemistry is. This is my daughter, Mary (junior research group member) playing with some toy slime at the Florida Tech employee picnic.


January 2019

Welcome Back!
Welcome back to everybody for a new semester of learning and research at Florida Tech! (Note: this picture was definitely not taken at Florida Tech.)


December 2018

Semester Complete!
All group members reported that they made it to the end of the semester, which is an accomplishment worth celebrating. We wish everybody a relaxing holiday, a happy New Year's celebration, and a prosperous 2019!


November 2018

Future of Innovative Learning Environments Workshop
Dr. Kurt Winkelmann, along with his collaborators Dr. Jungwoo Ryoo and Larry Regan from the University of Pennsylvania system, hosted the NSF-funded eXploring the Future of Innovative Learning Environments (X-FILEs) workshop. The X-FILEs project will address the following question:

What are the near-term and longer-term impacts, opportunities, challenges, and future research initiatives related to the development and implementation of innovative learning environments (ILEs) in higher education STEM disciplines?

Two dozen faculty and industry representatives from across the US gathered in Melbourne for this three-day workshop. The group will prepare a white paper describing their findings, to be published in 2019.

Group member Salomey Sasu participated in Florida Tech's first Graduate Student Research Showcase. She prepared a poster to present her work on the analysis of n-alkanes and n-alkenes in Arctic soil sediments.


October 2018

NanoFlorida 2018
Drs. Kurt Winkelmann and Jim Brenner (Chemical Engineering) hosted the  on October 5 - 7 at Florida Tech. About 200 students and faculty from the Southeast and scientific instrumentation vendors from across the U.S. attended the conference. Events included instrument demonstration s, a career and graduate school fair, a poster session, over 70 research talks, and a student awards ceremony. Keynote speakers included , Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, , Senior Principal Investigator for Flight Research at NASA KSC, and Prof. , University of Central Florida Distinguished Professor. The 2018 NanoFlorida Conference attracted many industrial and academic sponsors as well. Drs. Winkelmann and Brenner wish to thank Brendan Swiger and the many other student volunteers (pictured to the right) who helped them plan and conduct this event.


September 2018

Dr. Marcus Wilde (Aerospace Engineering) presented our wire repair research at the 2018 AIAA SPACE and Astronautics Forum and Exposition in Orlando. We also contributed to a conference paper on this subject, for which Brendan Swiger was a co-author.


August 2018

Back to School!
We welcome back our group members for another year of research success!


July 2018

Education Workshop Planning
The National Science Foundation has selected Drs. Kurt Winkelmann and Jungwoo Ryoo (Penn State - Altoona) to lead the eXploring the Future of Innovative Learning Environments Workshop. This three-day event will take place on November 11 - 13, 2018 in downtown Melbourne, Florida.

To advance the use of novel technologies to increase student learning outcomes, educational technology must be coupled with a deep understanding of how students learn and retain information. Thus, technology and the learning environment must work together to enable pedagogical approaches that promote student-centered learning. To set a research agenda for the technology-enhanced learning environment of the future, this collaborative project will conduct a series of events that explore the future of innovative learning environments. These events will include a series of interactive, online discussions followed by an in-person workshop. Workshop participants will include expert participants from academia, industry, and nonprofits.

This project aims to inform the future of learning environments in STEM higher education. The project will consider the near-term and longer-term impacts, opportunities, challenges, and future research initiatives related to the development and implementation of innovative learning environments. This project will include three components: 1) Interactive, online discussions (microlabs) prior to the workshop will introduce participants to different innovative learning environments and solicit feedback from a range of stakeholders; 2) Participants at a two-day in-person workshop will engage in creative activities that help them envision how innovative learning environments might transform STEM higher education; and 3) the PIs and invited participants will synthesize the discussions and produce a report that can guide future research. 

June 2018

NanoFlorida 2018 Research Conference
Drs. Kurt Winkelmann and Jim Brenner are organizing the NanoFlorida 2018 Conference to be held at Florida Tech on October 5 - 7. Brendan Swiger is the Lead Student Organizer and will help select speakers, supervise student volunteers, and assist Drs. Winkelmann and Brenner during the conference as needed. See the NanoFlorida 2018 website for more details.


May 2018

Research Group Celebration
In celebration of another productive semester and needed relaxation beforeWinkelmann and Olson research groups final exams, members and families of Dr. Olson's research group joined us for an end of the year cookout. There was swimming, the Ultimate Werewolf card game, lots of food, and the first annual cornhole tournament between Dr. W's and Dr. O's research groups. Of course we won. A good time was had by all!

Thank you to everybody who attended and we wish you a relaxing and productive summer.


April 2018

Group Member Achievements
Dami AjadiCongratulations to Winkelmann group members Dami Ajadi (left), Brendan Swiger (middle), and Salomey Sasu (right)!

Dami Ajadi successfully defended his dissertation proposal which describes the research that he will perform for his Ph.D. His presentation was titled "Fatty Acids as Biomarkers in Chukchi Sea sediments." He will analyze soil sediments collected at various locations in the Arctic Ocean for fatty acid content and relate those results to arsenic content (determined by Dr. Trefry's research group) of the same soil samples. Results may provide additional methods for detecting the influence of climate change.

The Chemistry Department awarded Brendan Swiger the J. Clayton Baum Award that recognizes excellence in chemistry academics and research and Florida Tech recognized his academic achievement with the Distinguished Student Scholar Award.

Salomey Sasu completed the written and oral defense of her original proposal. The original research proposal requires a graduate student to conceive and develop a research idea that is wholly independent of her dissertation research and without assistance from her research committee. Salomey presented a project to study "The Influence of Cation Charge and Size on the Stability of Silver Nanoparticles." 

Congratulations to Dami, Brendan, and Salomey for these important achievements! 

Understanding Factors that Influence the Participation of Women in STEM
Drs. Winkelmann and Dr. Andrea Harmer, Chair of the Library & Learning Technologies Department in the College of Education at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania have initiated an education research collaboration. The study, titled Women in STEM, seeks to provide a clearer understanding of the influences and other factors that lead young women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields beyond high school. Current female graduate and undergraduate students at Florida Tech and other participating schools were sent a survey containing questions about family and/or mentor influences, experiences, and/or literary influences that may have encouraged young women to explore STEM fields in higher education. Drs. Harmer and Winkelmann will continue to collect survey responses and analyze the data throughout the spring and summer.


March 2018

Seminar Exchange
Entrance of Imperial College's School of MinesDr. Winkelmann organized a seminar exchange event with Imperial College London. Funding for these trips was provided by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities Events Sponsorship Program.

He gave a seminar at Imperial College London during spring break. His presentation, "Design and Effectiveness of Laboratory Experiments in the Virtual World of Second Life," described student achievement and attitudes when performing chemistry lab experiments in the virtual world of Second Life.  This project is described on the Education Research page. This research project was a collaboration with Dr. Wendy Keeney-Kennicutt of Texas A&M.

Drs. Justin Cobb and Eduoard Auvinet of the MSk Lab in the School of Medicine hosted his visit. While in London, Dr. W met members of the MSk Lab and learned about their use of 3D modeling, augmented reality, and other areas of research for improving medical school education outcomes of surgeries.

Dr. W hosted Dr. Auvinet's visit to Florida Tech two weeks after returning from London. Dr. Auvinet is a biomedical engineering researcher with research interests in technological assistance in medical practice and training. In particular, he is studying new technologies to measure and analyze motion in the medical domain to improve diagnosis, assistance, and training. Projects include (1) the development of a gait analysis method involving Microsoft Kinect systems in order to help for the diagnosis and follow-up evaluation of patients with osteoarthrosis, and (2) the use of a virtual and augmented reality platform for a serious game for rehabilitation exercise and surgical task learning.

Imperial College London is ranked among the top universities in the world for science, medicine, and business. It's somewhat older than Florida Tech, as the architecture at the entrance of its School of Mines shows. 

Experiment in Space
Our group’s research of wire repair methods brought Brendan Swiger and other Florida Tech students to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to view the launch of a sounding rocket. Although we can see larger rocket launches here in Melbourne, this one was special because it contained their project instrument in its payload. The sounding rocket reached a suborbital altitude of 107 miles before landing in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket’s payload was recovered and the wire repair instrument, samples, and stored data will be returned to Florida Tech. The Chemical Research page describes this research collaboration between our group, Dr. Tracy Gibson (URS Federal Services, a NASA contractor), and Drs. Hamid Hefazi and Markus Wilde and students Florida Tech’s Materials and Aerospace Engineering program. Our group's contribution to this project is to perform tests and image wire repair samples repaired on Earth and those repaired during the rocket's suborbital flight. 

The image to the right shows the college students from Florida Tech and other schools with their payload flying on the Malemute sounding rocket at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (photo credit: NASA).  Media reports can be found here, here, and here (with video).

Paper Published
Brendan Swiger contributed to the research described in the recent article “Robust Microplate-Based Methods for Culturing and in Vivo Phenotypic Screening of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii” authored by Dr. Andrew Palmer’s research group.


Wow! You scrolled all the way through my group news. Well, sorry but this is as far back as we go.