"My research interests lie primarily in the area of asymmetric synthesis of optically active organic molecules. Three-dimensional characteristics of organic molecules are highly influential on their chemistry and biochemistry, and create special challenges to the synthetic organic chemist. My research students and I are working specifically on the synthesis of asymmetric organic molecules that contain phosphorus, an element that plays an active role in many biochemical transformations."
Years at Knox: 1997 to present
Ph.D., Organic Chemistry, 1997, University of Iowa.
B.A., Chemistry, 1992, University of Minnesota-Morris.
General chemistry, organic chemistry, methods in organic synthesis, advanced synthesis lab.
Phillip Green Wright/Lombard College Prize for Distinguished Teaching, 2001, Knox College.
Cottrell College Science Award, Research Corporation, 2001.
"Synthesis of 5,5-Diphenyl-4-penten-2-one: A Variation on a Classic Organic Synthesis Laboratory." Alber, J.P., DeGrand, M.J., and Cermak, D.M. Journal of Chemical Education 88 (2011): 82-85.
"Synthesis and Characterization of Novel Spirooxazacamphorsultam Derivatives." Wilke, B.I., Goodenough, A.K., Bausch, C.C., Cline, E.N., Abrams, M.L., Fayer, E.L., and Cermak, D.M. Tetrahedron Letters 51 (2010): 6871-6873.
"Four Novel Spirooxazacamphorsultam Derivatives." Wilke, B.I., Goodenough, A.K., Bausch, C.C., Cline, E.N., Abrams, M.L. Fayer, E.L., Swenson, D.C., and Cermak, D.M. Acta Crystallographica, Section C 66 (2010): 563-593.
"2-(Acyloxy)ethylphosphonate analogues of prenyl pyrophosphates: synthesis and biological characterization." Co-authors D.F. Wiemer, K. Lewis, and R.J. Hohl. Journal of Bioorganic and Medical Chemistry 8 (2000): 2729-2737.
"Synthesis of Nonracemic Dimethyl a- (Hydroxyfarnesyl) phosphonates via Oxidation of Dimethyl Farnesylphosphonate with (Camphorsulfonyl) oxaziridines." Co-authors Y.Du and D.F. Wiemer. Journal of Organic Chemistry 64 (1999): 388-393.
"Phosphonate and Biophosphonate Analogues of Farnesyl Pyrophosphate as Potential Inhibitors of Farnesyl Protein Transferase." Co-authors R.J. Hohl, S.A. Holstein, K. Lewis, D.F. Wiemer. Journal of Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry 6 (1998): 687-694.
"Stereochemistry Dependent Inhibition of RAS Farnesylation by Farnesyl Phosphonic Acids." With R.J. Hohl, K. Lewis, D.F. Wiemer. Lipids 33 (1998): 39-46.
"What's up with..." Discovery Depot Children's Museum. Along with 6 Knox students, 3 demonstrations and hands-on activities, 2010.
"Novel Methodology for the Synthesis of a-Aminophosphonic Acids." With Aaron R. Thornton and Claire M. Matekaitis. Physical Sciences and Mathematics Symposium of the PEW Midstates Math and Science Consortium, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Biological Sciences and Psychology Symposium of the PEW Midstates Math and Science Consortium, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.
"How Undergraduate Research Changed My Life." Undergraduate Research Symposium, University of Minnesota, Morris, 2001.
"Changing the Role of the Notebook to Enhance Writing and Efficiency in Organic Lab." With L.C. Bush. Sixteenth Biennial Conference on Chemical Education, 2000.
Campus & Community Involvement
Site Co-Director, Secondary Chemistry Instrumentation Laboratory (SCIL), Illinois Board of Higher Education.
Member, American Chemical Society, Peoria Section; National Chemistry Week Chairperson.
Member, Alpha Chi Sigma.
What Students Say
"Professor Cermak has the ability to make one of the most feared subjects-Organic Chemistry-understandable and less intimidating. Her informal teaching style and eagerness to interact with students makes her a superior teacher. In addition, her enthusiasm about the subject and her caring attitude has made me love a class that I never imagined I would like."
-Andy Mattai, Biology Major
Britt Anderson encourages current Knox students to take classes in constitutional law, LSAT preparation, and to be ready to focus only on the study of law.
Scholar John Agnew aims to debunk myths and promote a better understanding of the dimensions of immigration in the United States and elsewhere.
A double-major in English literature and gender and women's studies, she walks in the footsteps of James Joyce and other writers, gaining a better understanding of them and their work.