Radiation Therapies for Cancer

Chemical Analysis of Artifacts Recovered from Regional Excavations

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 | 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Whitewater Room, Idaho Commons

Presenter: Ray von Wandruszka, Professor of Chemistry

About three years ago, the Department of Chemistry started a collaboration with Mark Warner (Sociology/Anthropology) on the chemical analysis of archaeological artifacts recovered from various locations in the Pacific Northwest. We deal with historic, rather than prehistoric, materials, and most items analyzed in the laboratory are bottles and containers with mysterious contents. The work is mostly carried out by undergraduate researchers, who sign up for it via an Undergraduate Research (Chem 491) course. The course primarily involves analytical chemistry, but archival and ethnographic investigations also play an important role. The work has turned out to be highly motivating to undergraduates, who find this kind of chemical detective work intriguing. It also has definite didactic value, since it exposes students to techniques and insights that they would never come across in a standard “recipe-based” laboratory. Sometimes there are Eureka moments, while at other times the conclusion is “that’s just dirt.”

Ray von Wandruszka earned a B.Sc. (Hons), University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and his Ph.D. from the University of Wyoming. After working as post-doctoral associate and post-doctoral lecturer at the University of Georgia, he returned to the University of the Witwatersrand as a lecturer and senior lecturer of chemistry. He came to the University of Idaho in 1988 and was promoted to professor in 1998. Since 2006, he has been chair of the UI’s Department of Chemistry, where he specializes in analytical and environmental chemistry.