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Owen McDougal, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair

Organic, Natural Products, Food and Dairy Chemistry

Founding Editor and Chief, AIMS Molecular Science


Office: SCNC 153C

Phone: (208) 426-3964

Research Interests:

  • Food Chemistry
  • Dairy Science
  • Natural Products Chemistry
  • Toxicology Studies

Undergraduate Research Assistant

What am I looking for in an undergraduate research assistant?

What courses would you recommend students have taken prior to working in your laboratory?

  • There are sufficient projects for students of all levels, from freshman to Ph.D., to
    integrate into the lab effectively. New research students are partnered with senior lab members to work on projects of interest to them. Students are encouraged to present their work at conferences and serve as co-authors on peer-reviewed publications.

How many hours per week do you expect a student to spend in the laboratory per research credit and does the time have to be a set schedule?

  • Students are expected to commit at least 10 hours per week (2 credits) for laboratory work to attain a meaningful experience. Students can set their own lab schedule, but they should align their research time to complement the availability of other project participants, especially senior group members.

Ideally, for what length of time would a student research in your laboratory to achieve a meaningful research experience?

  • Students generally work in the lab for 2-5 years. Students are welcome to join the lab at any stage of their degree path. Most students present their work at a minimum of one conference per year, and have their work published on the order of every other year.

Educational Background

1998: Ph.D. – Organic Chemistry | University of Utah – Ph.D. Dissertation: Conus Peptides Investigated by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopic Methods. Advisor: C. Dale Poulter

1992: B.S. – Chemistry/Spanish minor | State University of New York College (SUNY) Oswego, NY.

1990: A.S. – Chemistry | SUNY Morrisville, NY.

Research Overview

Research projects in my laboratory cover a wide range of systems broadly classified as biomedical natural products, and food and dairy.  My group explores the interface between chemistry and biology to understand the mechanism of action for bioactive components isolated from natural products. Projects in my laboratory are instrumentation intensive with an emphasis on high pressure liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy, circular dichroism, and cell culture bioactivity assessment.

The main research topics that students in my lab investigate include: (1) steroidal alkaloids from Veratrum californicum and Veratrum parviflorum for cancer treatments; (2) food chemistry analysis of the effect of pulsed electric field systems on french fries, potato chips, and snack foods, (3) dairy product evaluation including milk, cheese, and whey protein powders, and (4) industry focused priorities including wine, environmental impact, toxicology, legal forensic analysis, and biomedical therapeutic development from agricultural raw materials. My lab works closely with the food and dairy industry across the region to address issues in food and dairy processing, nutraceuticals, vetting of scientific instrumentation for industry settings, and a variety of other legal and medical applications.

A goal of my research is to ensure the projects that I propose can be accomplished by undergraduate and graduate students, are worthy of publication, and have the potential to be presented at local, regional, and national conferences. It is important for students to be exposed to cutting edge advances in science and for them to experience relevant, real-world examples of how their work fits into the evolving interdisciplinary and collaborative realm of research. Each of my projects is evaluated for level of difficulty and potential for access to external funding. 

Select Publications (2018-2021)

Rose Saxton and Owen McDougal,* Foods, “Whey Protein Powder Analysis by Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy.” 10(5), 1033; (2021).

Maranda S. Cantrell† and Owen M. McDougal,* Compr. Rev. Food Sci. Food Saf., “Biomedical Rationale for Acrylamide Regulation and Methods of Detection.” (2021).

Maranda S. Cantrell,† Jared T. Seale,† Sergio A. Arispe, Owen M. McDougal,* Foods, “Determination of Organosulfides from Onion Oil.” 9(7), 884; (2020).

Julia Thom Oxford, Ken A. Cornell, Jared J. Romero, Diane B. Smith, Tracy L. Yarnell, Rhiannon M. Wood, Cheryl L. Jorcyk, Trevor J. Lujan, Allan R. Albig, Kristen A. Mitchell, Owen M. McDougal, Daniel Fologea, David Estrada, Juliette K. Tinker, Rajesh Nagarajan, Don L. Warner, Troy T. Rohn, Jim Browning, Richard S. Beard Jr., Lisa R. Warner, Brad E. Morrison, Clare K. Fitzpatrick, Gunes Uzer, Laura Bond, Stephanie M. Frahs, Cynthia Keller Peck, Xinzhu Pu, Luke G. Woodbury, Matthew W. Turner, IJMS, “Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Matrix Biology: Building Research Infrastructure, Supporting Young Researchers, and Fostering Collaboration.” 21, 2141; doi:10.3390/ijms21062141 (2020).

Leanna A. Marquart,† Matthew W. Turner,† Lisa R. Warner, Matthew D. King, James R. Groome, Owen M. McDougal,* Marine Drugs, “Structure and Bioactivity of KTM, A Computationally Designed Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Antagonist Inspired by α-Conotoxin MII.” 17, 669; doi:10.3390/md17120669 (2019).

Leanna A. Marquart,† Matthew W. Turner,† Owen M. McDougal,* Toxins, “Qualitative Assay to Detect Dopamine Release by Ligand Action on Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors.” 11, 682; doi:10.3390/toxins11120682 (2019).

Matthew W. Turner,† Meagan Rossi,† Vannessa D. Campfield,† John French,† Ellie Hunt,† Emily Wade,† Owen M. McDougal,* Fitoterapia, “Steroidal Alkaloid Variation in Veratrum californicum as Determined by Modern Methods of Analytical Analysis.” 137, DOI: (2019).

Narasimharao Kondamudi and Owen M. McDougal* J. Surfactants and Detergents, “Microwave Assisted Synthesis and Characterization of Bio-based Surfactants.” DOI: (2019).

Matthew W. Turner,† Leanna A. Marquart,† Paul D. Phillips,† Owen M. McDougal,* Toxins, “Mutagenesis of α-Conotoxins for Enhancing Activity and Selectivity for Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors.” 11, 113, DOI: (2019).

Matthew W. Turner,† Roberto Cruz,† Jordan Elwell,† John French,† Jared Mattos,† Owen M. McDougal,* Molecules, “Native Veratrum californicum alkaloid combinations induce differential inhibition of Sonic Hedgehog signaling.” 23(9), 2222-2232, DOI: (2018).

Owen M. McDougal, Peter Heenan, Nigel Perry, John van Klink,* NZJ Botany, “Chemotaxonomy of kōwhai: leaf and seed flavonoids of New Zealand Sophora species.” DOI: (2018).

Matthew King, Thomas Long,† Daniel Pfalmer,† Timothy Andersen, Owen M. McDougal,* BMC Bioinformatics, “SPIDR: Small-molecule Peptide-Influenced Drug Repurposing.” 19(138), DOI: (2018).

Mehruba Anwar,† Matthew W. Turner,† Natalija Farrell, Wendy B. Zomlefer, Owen M. McDougal,* Brent W. Morgan,* Clin. Toxicol., “Hikers Poisoned: Identification of Alkaloids in Foraged Veratrum parviflorum.” DOI: (2018).

Mary K. Campbell, Shawn O. Farrell, and Owen M. McDougal, “Biochemistry,” 9th ed.; Cengage Learning: Mason, OH (2018) ISBN: 9781305961135.

Select Grants (2018-2021)

2/1/2021 – 2/1/2023

  • Build Dairy

3/31/2021 – 8/23/2022

  • PEF Potato Processing Advantage – State of Idaho – Department of Commerce

6/1/2020 – 5/31/2022

  • Using Fortilin Inhibitors to Halt Atherosclerosis Year 2020 – University of Washington/NIH pass thru

6/5/2020 – 8/6/2022

  • Cost Effective Dairy Protein Certification Method – Dairy Management, Inc. (NDC)

2/1/2018 – 12/31/2020

  • Fast, Accurate, and Economical Evaluation of Acrylamide Content in Fried Potato Products – Idaho State Department of Agriculture


My philosophy on teaching is to teach others as you would like to be taught. I create an active learning environment where students are made to feel comfortable asking questions either in class or outside of class. I make myself available for students prior to and following lectures, and honor drop-ins as well as regular email responses to questions. I believe course expectations should be very clear and students should be aware of their class standing at all times. I use a mix of technology and best practices in teaching and learning to actively engage students in my lecture courses.

Academic and Professional Positions

06/12: Program Chair, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pacific Division (93rd annual), and Liaison to the American Chemical Society Northwest Region (67th annual), co-located meeting, Boise Centre on the Grove, Boise, ID.

2009-Present: Associate Professor of Chemistry, Boise State University, Boise, ID.

2006-2009: Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Boise State University, Boise, ID.

06/07: Program Chair, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pacific Division, 88th Annual Meeting, Boise Centre on the Grove, Boise, ID.

05/05–8/05: Visiting Professor, instructor of Organic and Bioorganic Chemistry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.

09/04-5/05: Visiting Associate Professor of Chemistry, sabbatical appointment, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.

2003-2006: Associate Professor of Chemistry, Southern Oregon University, Ashland, OR.

08-9/02; 8-9/03; 6-9/04; 8–9/05: Visiting Professor, instructor of Organic Chemistry (4 years) and Green Organic Chemistry laboratories (summer 2004 only), University of Oregon, Eugene, OR.

06/01-8/01: Visiting Professor, instructor of Bioorganic Chemistry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.

1998-2003: Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Southern Oregon University, Ashland, OR.

06/90-8/90: Laboratory Technician, Galson Laboratories, East Syracuse, NY.