Peter Schaber, PhD Professor of Analytical Chemistry

Peter Schaber, PhD

PhD, SUNY at Buffalo
(716) 888-2351

Teaching Areas

Teaching areas include general and analytical chemistry. Research interests include the synthesis, characterization and reactivity of transition metal complexes in “unusual” coordination spheres and the analysis of heavy metals in water and food.

Research Interests

1. Design and implementation of case study experiments across the undergraduate chemistry curriculum.
2. Synthesis and characterization of novel metal-ligand complexes as potential models for the active site in metallobiomolecules.
3. Determination of heavy metals in Appalachian Trail water and Great Lake’s game fish.
4. Thermal decomposition of urea and its application to the diesel engine industry. 

Case Studies Across the Undergraduate Chemistry Curriculum

The first example of an effort to integrate the technique of fluorescence spectroscopy into analysis oriented courses at Canisius College is described below. This case study considers an otherwise healthy individual that has been diagnosed with elevated Se in their system. Initial investigation leads to a possible diet connection. Student groups play the role of “research investigators” working for a facility associated with a local hospital, and analyze Brazil nuts (the leading suspect) for Se content. This case study exposes students to the technique of derivatization to enhance fluorescence intensity, the self absorption problem, use of microwave digestion, and a modified standard addition method. Student groups need to determine the concentration of Se in Brazil nuts, and determine if this concentration level poses a problem with respect to the levels found in the patient. 

Analysis of Selenium in Brazil Nuts by Microwave Digestion and Fluorescence Detection

In the first step of the case study, Se (IV) is extracted from Brazil nuts by microwave digestion followed by a work-up.  The net reaction is:

In the second step, students determine the concentration of Se (IV) using the Laser Fluorescence Spectrophotometer.  An example of standard curve generated using the spectrophotometer is shown below.

Determination of Heavy Metals in Game Fish

This undergraduate research project specifically addressed the question, “Are game fish from Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the Niagara River safe to consume with respect to heavy metal contamination?”  Warnings issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) point to the danger of excessive consumption of fish, especially from Lake Ontario.  However, such advisories are primarily on organic contaminants.  Preliminary studies in these laboratories have indicated that Cd and Hg concentrations appear to be at acceptable levels in most fish sampled from Lake Erie, however Pb concentrations are surprisingly high.  Is this trend reflective in Lake Ontario or the Niagara River?  We have analyzed skin and muscle tissue, the primary tissues consumed, as well as kidney, liver, gill, and other such tissue where toxicity is manifested.  Fish samples were analyzed using appropriate EPA methods for extraction and qualitative determination (Metals in Fish Tissue by Inductively Coupled Plasma, ICP, and EPA method 200.1 for metal determinations).  We have also expanded our analysis to several other metal species such as Cu, Ni, Al, Cr, Sn, and As in an attempt to gain a full body burden profile.  We have focused on the analysis of Perch, Trout, and Smallmouth Bass.  We are currently analyzing walleye.