Meet the New Faculty: Dr. Richard B. Keithley in Chemistry

by roanokecollege on October 17, 2013


Dr. Richard B. Keithley is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry teaching General Chemistry/General Chemistry Laboratory, Environmental Chemistry, and Instrumental Analysis. He has a PhD in Analytical Chemistry and his specialty is Electrochemistry, Separations, and Neuroscience.

1. Tell us a little bit about your research.

As an analytical chemist, my expertise lies in the development of instrumentation and equipment used to measure interesting molecules.  You probably have seen many of these items on shows like CSI or the Discovery Channel’s Forensic Science shows.  Personally, I am enamored by Nature’s sophisticated elegance and am eager to apply my knowledge to address neurobiological and environmental problems.

Neurons in your brain control everything from how you move, how you think, who you are, and what you love.  Neurons talk to one another with the aid of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.  Neuronal communication is exceptionally fast and can be difficult to measure, both because sensors require rapid response times and the sensors must be small enough to not damage neuronal tissue.  Using a technique called Fast Scan Cyclic Voltammetry, I can measure neuronal communication in the brains of organisms in real time while they are awake and moving around.  Working with psychologists and biologists, I am interested in using this technology to study how neuronal communication is affected by drug abuse and how it is altered in neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease.


2. What attracted you to Roanoke College?

Roanoke College is the type of institution that personally allows me to excel as both a teacher and a scholar.  I don’t fit into the traditional mold of a chemist.  Roanoke College is unique in that I am not just allowed, but I am encouraged to work with students across multiple disciplines including chemistry, biology, and even psychology.  Moreover, when I arrived at Roanoke College it just felt like a place I wanted to call home.  Finally, I am a native Virginian and it is great to come back home from my travels across the U.S.  I was raised in a rural area along the coast and decided to experience life in the lovely Blue Ridge.

3. What do you do when you are not at work?

As a chemist, I realize that spare time has exceptionally high vapor pressure and readily evaporates.  However, on the occasion that I manage to find spare time, I enjoy sitting outside reading a book and playing with my two cats, Smith & Wesson.  I also love to show off my Southern heritage, constantly cooking food for others that is incredibly unhealthy yet exquisitely decadent.

If you see Dr. Keithley around campus, please welcome him to Roanoke College!

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