Deb Mlsna

Image of Deb Mlsna

Deb Mlsna

Assistant Professor

B.S, Chemistry, Davidson College, Davidson, NC
Ph.D., Chemistry, University of Texas-Austin, Austin, TX


Hand Lab 1132

(662) 325-0201

Website CV

Research Interests

Research interests in the Deb Mlsna group focus on Chemical Education and learning pathways for undergraduate students.  We are involved in numerous projects that focus on the development of critical thinking skills, interaction among students in laboratory environments, factors that impact student success, and incorporation of novel teaching approaches and materials that encourage student understanding.  The development of supportive environments for undergraduate education is our priority.  This principle supports academic success for our students and further explores the interactions that impact understanding.  Our current research centers on two broad categories:

Critical Thinking and Metacognition in the Classroom

Our work focuses on the development of critical thinking skills in the General Chemistry classroom.  We have implemented a learning technique known as Solved Problem Analysis in both small and large chemistry classrooms to assess if analysis of worked examples can aid students in developing a deeper understanding of chemical concepts and encourage higher-order thinking.  This approach shows great promise in assisting students in retaining information and understanding critical concepts in General Chemistry.
chem classWe are also interested in the self-assessment of students as they evaluate their level of understanding.  Knowledge surveys and exam grade predictions are used to determine if students understand where they have gaps in knowledge and are used as a preliminary step in creating programs that support student success.  The use of knowledge surveys has enhanced student performance on exams and graded assignments and is part of our developed programs.

Other projects of current interest include the assessment of reading and writing skills of students and their impact.  Peer critique of writing has been used to enhance research papers and develop writing skills in upper-division chemistry students.  A current study that focuses on reading comprehension is being developed to look more closely at word problem analysis and student strategies.

Laboratory Learning

chem classA second focus in our research group is the development of undergraduate experiments to stimulate learning in the laboratory.  Many of our experiments are based on the research activities occurring in our department with a focus toward relevant, real world experiences related to environmental, biochemical, and nanoparticle topics.

Positions Open

We are always looking for quality graduate and undergraduate researchers to join our research team. Graduate students interested in joining the lab should be focused on teaching as a career path since the chemical education pathway focuses on the training of instructors and future faculty members.  Statistical analysis will be a required skill although prior experience in statistics isn’t necessary. For undergraduates advanced coursework is not required provided you possess enthusiasm and interest in education-focused research. Freshmen and sophomores have been successful in the group and are encouraged to inquire about open positions.


Akila G. Karunanayake, Sameera R. Gunatilake, Fathima S. Ameer, Manuel Gadogbe, Laura Smith, Deb Mlsna, and Dongmao Zhang, Undergraduate Laboratory Experiment Modules for Probing Gold Nanoparticle Interfacial Phenomena, J. Chem. Educ., Articles ASAP (As Soon As Publishable), Publication Date (Web): October 9, 2015 (Laboratory Experiment), DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.5b00535
Akila G Karunanayake, Narada Bombuwala Dewage, Olivia Adele Todd, Matthew Essandoh, Renel Anderson, Todd Mlsna and Deb Mlsna, Salicylic Acid and 4-Nitroaniline Removal from Water Using Magnetic Bio-char: An Environmental & Analytical Experiment for the Undergraduate Laboratory, Journal of Chemical Education 2016 93 (11), 1935-1938
Use of Solved Problem Analysis to Support Learning in the General Chemistry Classroom, Nathan Alexander, Terri Linley* and Deb Mlsna, J. Chem. Ed, submitted, ID: ed-2016-00424j, June 2016.
Kumar, B. Tazik S, Mlsna, D. Mlsna, T. “Raoult’s Law: An Undergraduate Laboratory Experiment utilizing a MiniGC.” Chemical Educator, 18 (2013) pp 061-065, March 2013.
Mlsna, D., Randall, J., Tolley, W. Mlsna T. Gas Chromatography- Investigations with the MiniGC.” Lab Manual, Vernier Software and Technology, 2009.

Presentations and Conference Abstracts

D. Mlsna and T. Linley, “Solved problem analysis in a large chemistry classroom”, (2014) Biennial Conference for Chemical Education, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 311.
D. Mlsna and T. Linley, “Solved Problem Analysis and the development of critical thinking in General Chemistry” (2014) 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Dallas, TX, abstract #84.
T. Linley, J.P. Emerson and D. Mlsna, (2014) “MSU2MD: A Freshman Year Experience course designed to educate and integrate PreHealth students.” National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions, San Francisco, CA.,June 24th, 2014.
Christina Hillesheim and Deb Mlsna, “Lab partnerships and the development of study groups: Creating partnerships to support learning outside the classroom”, (2014) 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Dallas, TX, abstract #69.
D. Mlsna; “American Chemical Society- 2014 Full Year General Chemistry Exam”- Committee member and contributor developing Full Year Exam with ACS Exams Institute-2013-2014.

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