Visiting professor models compounds containing nitric oxide

A visiting professor in SIUE’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Chemistry Department is working to inspire his students to study chemistry through his research projects. Myron Jones, visiting assistant professor of chemistry, comes to CAS from Oklahoma where he had been teaching at several community colleges following the completion of his Ph.D.

Professor Myron Jones works in the laboratory. photo courtesy of Jones.

Jones is originally from Cowan, Tennessee, a small town northwest of Chattanooga. He received his bachelor’s at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, his master’s at Middle Tennessee State University, and his Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma, all in the field of chemistry. Jones stated that he is interested in analytical and inorganic chemistry.

Jones found out through CAS Chemistry Professor Michael Shaw that SIUE was looking for a visiting chemistry professor, applied and was accepted. Jones has a wife and two children who came with him to SIUE. He stated that his hobbies are computers, reading non-fiction–mostly science and technology–and researching his family genealogy. However, Jones stated that his primary hobby is his academic research and teaching.

“My interest is in both education and training undergraduate students in research, fusing those two things together,” said Jones.

Jones stated that his research looks at model chemical compounds and how certain molecules are structured in nature. Nitric oxide is created by car pollution, certain types of lightning strikes, and through consumption of foods that may contain the raw ingredients, according to Jones.

“My work involves nitric oxide, which is a small molecule that has biological relevance. What I do is prepare model compounds that basically have these nitric oxide molecules binding to iron. They’re called dinitrosyl iron complexes. In the body, nitric oxide will bind to iron sites, but it’s not known exactly how these enzymes work or exactly what the structures are. So my models help us learn more about the chemistry involved with these complexes.”

The models that Jones studies can help biochemists expand their research. Chemists know that the compounds exist.  Understanding the structure of the bonds allows them to better understand how other compounds would bond with nitric oxide”

“These structures are known to exist in biological systems. I’m more into the fundamental chemistry–learning about how the molecules behave as opposed to the application of the materials. The structures exist in the body but they don’t know what the structures look like or how they behave.” said Jones.  “The more I learn about the fundamental chemistry, the more it will help those people who do the biochemistry.”

Jones stated that his area of research really expanded about 20 years ago. Before that, according to Jones, nitric oxide was viewed as a pollutant.

“Nitric oxide is an important molecule because it does have biological implications. This fact was discovered about 20 years ago. So, there has been a lot of research in the area to find out exactly how nitric oxide works in the body. It’s involved in blood pressure regulation, the nervous system. Before, it was thought it was just a pollutant–air pollution. Most of the old research was involved with determining how to get rid of it, how to get it out of the atmosphere. But, when it was found to have biological activity, a new area of research started to open up.”

Jones stated that his focus on nitric oxide focuses on how it bonds with iron in the body. Both iron and nitric oxide are found in different systems in the body.

“For my work, I’m interested in how the iron and nitric oxide bind and how the environment around them changes the way it behaves. People who make drugs that deliver NO (nitric oxide) to the body have an interest in that kind of knowledge. People who are interested in finding out how enzymes that involve nitric oxide work, they are interested in that kind of fundamental knowledge.”

Jones is looking forward to working with his students and colleagues in CAS. He looks forward to inspiring his students with his research and learning from CAS faculty on methods to share his research in the classroom.

“I enjoy inspiring students to learn more about chemistry. The challenge is trying to find a way to make it interesting and so far, I’ve been moderately successful,” said Jones. “But, I am trying to figure out how to take my research interest and incorporate that into my classroom.”

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