Dr. James Killarney

Associate Professor of Environmental Chemistry

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PhD, Analytical/Environmental Chemistry, University of Maine
MPH, Public Health, Boston University
BA, Biology, University of Maine

Teaching allows me to accomplish what I believe to be a fundamental responsibility of an environmental chemist: to effectively communicate current environmental issues to the public so they become informed citizens and decision makers. College educated students should enter the world and their chosen career paths with a specific knowledge of chemistry and how human behavior affects the environment around them. Chemistry is considered the ‘central science’ because it connects all forms of science. A sound and comprehensive education in the principles of this subject allows a student to understand how the natural world works around them and the effects their daily actions have. Most actions an individual takes have consequences and whether that action is good or bad is usually not clear. My basic philosophy when it comes to teaching chemistry and environmental science is not to teach what decisions one should make, but to provide a basic framework of knowledge so students can evaluate their decisions from a chemical perspective. When my students make everyday decisions ranging from what food to buy or what fuel to use, my goal is for them to think of the chemistry behind that choice and the impact of that decision on global and community sustainability.

At Unity College, I teach courses in general, organic and environmental chemistry. I also believe that research is one of the best ways to teach science and I actively involve students in my work. My students are with me in the field collecting samples and in the lab analyzing them. My current research interests are developing methods and instruments that can monitor pharmaceuticals and other organic pollutants in situ and in real time. This research path was formed while I was employed in the biopharmaceutical industry while at the same time was earning a Master’s degree in public health. It was a unique experience in that when I was at work, I was involved with powerful instruments with incredible capabilities to isolate and identify different therapeutic compounds. During my studies, my classmates talked about their experiences growing up in third world countries where the ability to ensure clean drinking water was a luxury. This experience motivated me to pursue a doctoral degree in analytical chemistry where I could develop methods that could quickly and cost-effectively collect data to provide real time chemical information. Such methods could have beneficial uses such as assuring clean water in the third world to providing regulatory agencies tools to monitor water safety.