Dr. Richard Keithley

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Biographical Information

Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Notre Dame, 2011-2013
Ph.D. Analytical Chemistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2011
B.S. Chemistry, summa cum laude, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2006.


Roanoke College
Assistant Professor of Chemistry, 2013-present

Current Courses
  • Chem 111L - General Chemistry I Lab
  • Chem 112L - General Chemistry II Lab
  • Chem 270 & 270L - Environmental Chemistry
  • Chem 350 & 350L - Instrumental Analysis
Research Interests

I am an analytical chemist, focusing on developing instrumentation for ultra-sensitive analyses. I find Nature’s complexities incredibly fascinating and my research spans the fields of analytical and environmental chemistries, neurobiology, and psychology, with a focus on measuring molecules of biological and environmental significance.

Glycosphingolipids are a class of specialized glycolipids that constitute up to 20% of the lipid content on cell surface plasma membranes. They have a variety of functional roles and could play interesting roles in the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. Using a technique called “Metabolic Cytometry”, we incubate cells with dye-tagged glycosphingolipids and allow the cells to metabolize these structures. All subsequent metabolic products produced in the cell will also contain the dye molecule. We then use capillary electrophoresis with laser-induced fluorescence detection to monitor the metabolic products, learning information about cellular metabolism. Using Metabolic Cytometry, we can detect fewer than 100 molecules, allowing for single cell detection.

Neurons communicate with the aid of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Neuronal communication is exceptionally fast and can be difficult to measure, both because sensors require rapid response times and the sensors must be small enough to not damage neuronal tissue. Fast-scan cyclic voltammetry is an electrochemical technique whereby neurotransmitters such as dopamine can be detected at carbon-fiber microelectrodes on a sub-second time scale. Using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, we can measure neuronal signaling in real time within intact organisms. Furthermore, we can use fast-scan cyclic voltammetry to correlate neuronal communication with behavior to better understand drug abuse and addiction.

Personal Information

I am a native Virginian, growing up in a small rural coastal town of about 700 people. I have an unquenchable sweet tooth and I spend a great deal of my spare time cooking absolutely unhealthy, yet exquisitely decadent desserts. The rest of the time I enjoy reading scary novels and playing with my two cats.

Contact Information

Street address
Chemistry Department,
Roanoke College
221 College Lane
Salem, VA 24153-3794


540 375-2048

540 375-2055

Inspirational Quotes

“Those who stand for nothing will fall for anything.” – Alex Hamilton

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Science Giants

Science Giants

Roanoke College enjoys a proud tradition of excellence in science that extends from the latter part of the 19th century to the present.

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04/16/15, Noon, C. Sarisky

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