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Jianhua Ren

Co-Chair and Professor of Chemistry


Phone: 209.946.2393




PhD, Purdue University, 1999

MS, Auburn University, 1994

BS, Beijing Normal University, 1986

Curriculum Vitae 

Teaching Philosophy

Learning is a life-long experience. Each stage has a difference focus. Undergraduate study is a special period during which one can acquire knowledge, gain hands-on skills, and develop critical thinking as well as problem-solving ability through a well-structured learning process. The knowledge, skills, and ability gained during this period serve as a foundation for life-long learning. Chemistry, as a fundamental science, has been developed through conducting experiments, extracting information, and composing theories. Concept, information, and experiments are the main components of the knowledge of chemistry. Learning chemistry is like building a well-designed architecture. Concept is like the steel framework and information is like the building material. A long-lasting architecture requires a solid foundation, a strong steel framework, high quality materials, and dedicated craftsmanship. I use this principle to guide my teaching and advising undergraduate students. I believe that critical thinking and problem solving skills are developed based on in-depth understanding of the concepts and through solving various problems with different degrees of difficulty. In lectures I stress the fundamental concepts and I demonstrate how to solve problems using basic principles. I like chalk talk! After lectures, I urge students to work on various problems (use pencil and paper!) and to develop their own ways to solve the problems. After graduation, the students may not remember all the detailed content they learned, but the learning ability they gained will last a life time.

Research Interests

Chemistry is an experimental science and is a dynamic discipline. The knowledge of chemistry evolves with the advancement of research which results in new information and new concepts. Research is a center piece in the landscape of chemistry from which new discoveries are continually emerging. I have an active research group composed of graduate students, postdoctoral scholar, and undergraduate students. We work on various research topics centered on utilizing a combination of chemical synthesis, mass spectrometry measurements, and molecular modeling to study the structures, the chemical and physical properties, and the reactivity of organic and biological molecules. The members in my research group present our newest findings at national and regional conferences annually. We publish exciting results in leading chemistry journals. Our on-going research projects include investigating the conformational effects on the thermochemical properties and reactivity of oligopeptides, studying the fragmentation patterns and mechanisms of peptide-mimicking polymers, known as peptoids, measuring the gas-phase acidity and basicity of biologically relevant organic compounds, analyzing the amino acid sequence of peptides and small proteins, synthesizing oligopeptides, and fabricating magnetic polymeric beads.


Undergraduate courses:
CHEM 121 Organic Chemistry I
CHEM 123 Organic Chemistry II
CHEM 025 General Chemistry I
CHEM 027 General Chemistry II
CHEM 121, 123 Organic Chemistry Laboratory I and II
PLTL Workshop Peer-Led Team Learning for Organic Chemistry
CHEM 027 Honors General Chemistry II Honors Lab
CHEM 197 Independent Research 
CHEM 191 Independent Study

Graduate courses:
PCSP 241 Advanced Organic/Bioorganic Chemistry
PCSP 297, 397 Graduate Research
PCSP 295, 395 Graduate Seminar