Roanoke College

Dr. Vernon R. Miller


Associate Professor of Chemistry

Ph. D. Inorganic Chemistry, Southern Illinois University
Teaching Areas: Inorganic, Analytical, Environmental, General Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Electronics
Joined Roanoke College in 1976
Office: Trexler -175; phone - 540-378-5158;
E-mail - 


Courses Taught
CHEM 111L, General Chemistry Lab
CHEM 112L, General Chemistry Lab
CHEM 221L, Organic Chemistry Lab
CHEM 222L, Organic Chemistry Lab
CHEM 331L, Physical Chemistry Lab
CHEM 332L, Physical Chemistry Lab
CHEM 370, Environmental Chemistry 



Current Research Projects and Interests
My current research interests are in the areas of boron chemistry, environmental chemistry, and revising and developing new laboratory experiments.  See description below.

I have a wife (Registered Nurse), a daughter (high school teacher), and a son (computer systems analyst). My wife and I were born and raised in Ohio, but after moving around during our our post-secondary school education, settled in Virginia. My hobbies are genealogy, the outdoors, boating and water skiing, computers, and informal teaching.
Currently I am the Editor of the "Blue Ridge Chemist", the monthly newsletter of the Virginia Blue Ridge Local Section of the American Chemical Society and Treasurer of the same Section.

Current Research Projects and Interests

Jeremy Johnson, a URAP and summer research student, works on a research project at our 400 MHz NMR. 


Research with Students

Research with students has always been a major priority of mine.  Many of these projects have involved boron-containing compounds and the preparation of previously unknown compounds or chemical changes happening in such systems.  Some have involved analysis of environmental samples.  The most important criterion for these projects has been the probability of the student getting reasonable results in a reasonable amount of time.  Several projects were outside of this area of interest but were proposed by the student and the background research done by the student.  In the 30+ years at Roanoke College I have supervised over 55 students in various research projects.  Of these projects, nine students have presented their research at American Chemical Society national meetings and nine at regional scientific meetings. 


Current Research Interests


My current research interests center on bisamine boron cations and their related compounds.  These cations have a boron atom in the center with two amines bonded to the boron and two other atoms, usually hydrogen atoms, also bonded to the boron atom.  They are unusual in that they are present as a species with a positive charge on it and that the hydrogen atoms bonded to boron are quite unreactive.   

One of the reasons these compounds are being studied is because the B-N bond is isoelectronic with the C-C bond.  This means that in theory, a C-C group in a molecule could be replaced by a B-N group and the resulting compound would have similar, but not identical properties.  This could lead to some interesting variations.  But an even more important reason to study these compounds is because students can do research on them and get good results, leading to new scientific information.  Thus, the student is actually contributing new information to science.   A simple example of this type research is the reaction of trimethylamine borane with iodine to give trimethylamine iodoborane, followed by the reaction with pyridine to give the pyridine trimethylamine boron cation, as shown in the equations below.


While this reaction has been studied, new research in this area involves adding more iodine to prepare a di-iodo or a tri-iodo compound, using amines different from trimethylamine or pyridine, preparing ions with a +2 or a +3 charge, and similar variations. 

An area of research related to the preparation of these cations is the reaction of the intermediate iodoborane with various organic functional groups.  Recently has been shown, and we have observed, that the hydrogen and/or iodine of a particular iodoborane can add to several organic functional groups, even at room temperature.  Research in this area would expand our understanding of these reactions by varying the amine of the iodoborane and the functional group, such as ketone, aldehyde, alkene, etc.  An example of this reaction is shown below.

 Click here for GC information


Current Issues of the Blue Ridge Chemist