Professor of Chemistry
His teaching and research interests include topics in chemistry, environmental pollution, water quality, inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, studies of trace metal analysis, toxic wastes, radon monitoring, pesticide residues, soil and environmental chemistry.
He is interested in the development of new analytical techniques, chemical education, environmental issues in developing nations, and in activism in environmental groups through lobbying and education.
Hear Professor Amarasiriwardena on the Academic Minute Audio Stream– WAMC Channel, Albany, NY.
In this course we will learn the fundamental chemical concepts of composition and stoichiometry, properties of matter, the gas laws, atomic structure, bonding and molecular structure, chemical reactions, and energy changes in chemical reactions. Considerable time will be devoted to learning the use of the periodic table as a way of predicting the chemical properties of elements. We will also emphasize application of those chemical principles to environmental, biological, industrial and day-to-day life situations. No previous background in chemistry is necessary but a working knowledge of algebra is essential, both because students will be expected to develop skill in solving a variety of numerical problems and because it is essential for understanding some of the subject matter. In the laboratory, basic skills, techniques of qualitative and quantitative analysis, and use of modern chemical instrumentation will be emphasized. We will also do two project-based labs, learn to understand the scientific methodology, and learn how to write scientific research reports. Chemistry I is the first term of a two-term course in general chemistry.
Chemistry II: This is a continuation of Chemistry I: the principles and concepts examined during the previous term will be expanded and applied to more sophisticated systems. Topics will include chemical thermodynamics, nuclear chemistry, chemical equilibrium, acid-base equilibria and their applications, complex ion equilibria, and solubility, oxidation-reduction reactions, electrochemistry, and reaction rates. We will also emphasize application of those chemical principles to environmental, biological, industrial and day-to-day real-life situations. Problem sets will be assigned throughout the semester. The laboratory will consist of two project-based labs and some laboratory exercises. Basic laboratory skills, chemical instrumentation techniques, and the use of computers in the chemistry laboratory will be emphasized. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Chemistry I and its laboratory or instructor permission.
Environmental Chemistry: This course will explore several current environmental topics with strong components in chemistry. We will put special emphasis on environmental concerns in the hydrosphere, soils, and atmosphere. Topics will include chemistry of natural waters, water pollution and wastewater treatment, toxic heavy metals and their complexation properties in soils, and inorganic and organic pollutants in the atmosphere. We will also examine energy use and its environmental consequences. Considerable time will be spent on learning environmental chemical analysis methods and instrumentation in environmental monitoring. These include inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) in trace metal analysis, infrared techniques in characterization of pollutants, chromatographic methods for separation and identification of contaminants. We will also look at sampling and sample preparation methods, the principles behind the operation of analytical instruments, and elemental speciation techniques used in environmental sample analysis. This class is particularly recommended for advanced Division II and III students with interests in environmental issues. We will conduct a discovery project of local environmental interest. Class will run in seminar format. Participation in class, satisfactory work on problem sets, oral presentations on topics of environmental interest, successful completion of laboratory/field work, and project reports are required for evaluation. Prerequisites: Chemistry I and II. Instructor permission required.
This course will explore environmental pollution problems covering four major areas: the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the biosphere, and energy issues. Several topics, including acid rain; automobile emissions; ozone layer depletion; climate change; mercury, lead and cadmium poisoning; pesticides; solid waste disposal; and problems of noise and thermal pollution will be addressed. We will emphasize some of the environmental issues affecting our immediate community, as well as those in developing nations. We will also do several project-based labs, gain understanding of scientific methodology, and learn how to write scientific research reports. Class participation, satisfactory work on the required class projects, problem sets, literature critiques, and laboratory/field reports are required for evaluation. This course satisfies distribution.
Recent advances in analytical chemistry and instrumentation play a major role in many interdisciplinary sciences, including environmental science, biology, agriculture, geology, and in many health science fields. This course will cover those advances in analytical atomic spectroscopy (inductively coupled plasma-mass and atomic emission spectroscopy -- ICP-MS, ICP-AES), analytical molecular spectroscopy (infrared, UV-visible), electrochemistry, and chromatographic techniques and associated instrumental methodologies. We will also look at sampling and sample preparation methods, laser ablation and elemental speciation techniques used in environmental and biological sample analysis. We will complete two project-based field/lab projects that will introduce the participants to hands-on experience in modern analytical instrumentation and development of novel analytical techniques to solve analytical problems encountered in diverse scientific fields. We will also read primary literature papers on current directions in analytical chemistry and recent developments in instrumentation. Prerequisite: successful completion of Chemistry I & II or instructor permission.