Mark Muyskens

Mark Muyskens


  • BS, Central College, 1982
  • PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Physical Chemistry, 1989

Professional experience

  • Professor of Chemistry, Calvin University, 1997—present
  • Chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, Calvin University, 2012—2015
  • Visiting Professor, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL); Lausanne, Switzerland, 2019
  • Visiting Scientist, University of California, Riverside, 2002—2003
  • Visiting Scientist, Columbia University, 1995—1996
  • Associate Professor of Chemistry, Calvin University, 1993—1997
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Calvin University, 1989—1993


Prof. Muyskens grew up in New Jersey and received his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Central College in Pella, IA, and his  Ph.D. degree in Physical Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the mentorship of F. Fleming Crim. His thesis work focused on energy transfer in IR-laser excited hydrogen fluoride and deuterium fluoride gas using a chemical laser to monitor the time-dependent exchange of energy. He began his teaching career at Calvin University (formerly "College") where his research interests have focused on the interaction of light and molecules. He has enjoyed sabbaticals that have taken him to New York City, Riverside, CA, and Lausanne, Switzerland. Prof. Muyskens enjoys working in the laboratory on research experiments, computer modeling calculations or improving the teaching of physical chemistry laboratory. He also enjoys reading, doing puzzles, photography, and being outdoors, doing activities such as hiking, running, and biking.

Academic interests

  • Fluorescence in natural products
  • Photochemistry of fluorine containing molecules


Research and scholarship

We study the fluorescence and photoacidity of natural coumarin compounds. We use absorbance and fluorescence spectroscopy and computer modeling to deduce dynamic interactions with solvents and isomers. Recently in our lab we made a new coumarin that is highly fluorescent that we have named knightletin. Three of the four most recent publications are in this area.

In previous work, we used a laser-based photochemical technique to study the elimination of hydrogen fluoride (HF) from fluorine containing organic molecules in the gas phase. Our focus has been on two molecules, formyl fluoride and trifluoroacetylacetone, which give remarkably different results. The goal is to learn fundamental details about how ultraviolet laser-excited molecules fall apart.  Our infrared laser probe technique gives us information about how much vibrational and rotational energy is released into the HF molecule produced in the reaction. A new, NSF-funded, tunable laser system greatly expands our ability to use ultraviolet laser pulses to initiate chemical reactions. Ultimately, our experimental data is used to test theoretical approaches to modeling these kinds of light-based reactions.



Undergraduate student names appear in bold

Leah H. Knoor, Liam P. Hoogewerf, Isaac B. Jonker, Elizabeth A. Doty, George R. Du Laney, Ronald L. Blankespoor, and Mark A. Muyskens, “Spectral Properties and Modeling of Knightletin, a Novel Aminocoumarin with Intramolecular Hydrogen Bonding,” J. Photochem. and Photobiol. A: Chem., 435, 114286. 2022.

Leah H. Knoor, George R. Du Laney, Isaac B. Jonker, Liam P. Hoogewerf, Yukun Tu, Hunter T. Pham, Joy Yoo and Mark A. Muyskens, “Aesculetin Exhibits Strong Fluorescent Photoacid Character,” Journal of Fluorescence, 32, 307-318. 2021.

Eduardo Carrascosa, Robert P. Pellegrinelli, Thomas R. Rizzo, and Mark A. Muyskens, “Cryogenic Infrared Action Spectroscopy Fingerprints the Hydrogen Bonding Network in Gas-Phase Coumarin Cations”. J. Phys. Chem. A 124, 9942-9950. DOI:10.1021/acs.jpca.0c06430. 2020.

Hunter Pham, Joy Yoo, Michael VandenBerg, and Mark Muyskens, “Fluorescence of Scopoletin Including its Photoacidity and Large Stokes Shift”. J. Fluorescence 30, 71–80. 2020.

Janice Wharton, Isaac Izaguirre, Alayna Surdock, Michael VandenBerg, Shane Bolhuis, Joshua Howard, Mark Muyskens, “Hands-on Demonstration of Natural Substance Fluorescence in Simple Tree Extracts: Sycamore”. J. Chem. Educ., 95 (4), 615–619. 2018.

Kyle R Disselkoen, Joel R Alsum, Timothy A Thielke, and Mark A. Muyskens, “Photochemistry of UV-excited Trifluoroacetylacetone and Hexafluoroacetylacetone II: Quantum Yield and Rate Constants of Hydrogen Fluoride Photoelimination Forming Fluorinated Methylfuranones,” Chemical Physics Letters, 672, 112–118. 2017.

Brett De Vries and Mark A. Muyskens, “Fluorine Atom Influence on Intramolecular Hydrogen Bonding, Isomerization and the HF Photoelimination Mechanism,” Computational and Theoretical Chemistry, 1097, 15–24. 2016.

Karen J. Muyskens, Joel R. Alsum, Timothy A. Thielke, Jodi L. Boer, Tina R. Heetderks, and Mark A. Muyskens, “Photochemistry of UV-Excited Trifluoroacetylacetone and Hexafluoroacetylacetone I: Infrared Spectra of Fluorinated Methylfuranones Formed by HF Photoelimination,” J. Phys. Chem. A, 116 (50), 12305–12313. 2012

Mark A. Muyskens and Maurica S. Stewart, “Getting Students of All Ages Excited About Fluorescence,” J. Chem. Educ., 88 (3), 259–260. 2011

Andrew M. Duffin, Jeremy A. Johnson, Mark A. Muyskens, and Eric T. Sevy, “Competition Between Photochemistry and Energy Transfer in UV-Excited Diazabenzenes: 4. UV Photodissociation of, 2,3-, 2,5-, and 2,6-Pimethylpyrazine.” J. Phys. Chem. A, 111 (51), 13330–13338. 2007. 

James Hargrove, Liming Wang, Karen Muyskens, Mark Muyskens, David Medina, Susan Zaide, and Jingsong Zhang. "Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy of Ambient NO2 with Quantification and Elimination of Interferences", Environmental Science and Technology, 40, 7868–7873. 2006

Mark A. Muyskens, “pHantastic Fluorescence, A JCE Classroom Activity.” J. Chem. Educ., 83, 768A–768B. 2006

Mark A. Muyskens, “The Fluorescence of Lignum Nephriticum: A Flash Back to the Past, and A Simple Demonstration of Natural Substance Fluorescence.” J. Chem. Educ., 83, 765–768. 2006


  • "Developing scientists through studies of unique coumarin compounds" - Calvin Research Fellowship, research release time for academic year 2022-23
  • "Photoacidity in bioactive, natural coumarins" - Calvin Research Fellowship, research leave for January 2021 interim term 
  • “RUI: Photoacidity in bioactive, natural coumarins,” - NSF- RUI Grant, 2020 (Award ID 1956223), Start date: 15 Aug 2020.
  • Mentor to Beckman Scholar, 2020, Summer 2020, Academic Year 2020-21, & Summer 2021.

Learn more about Calvin's excellent faculty and learning environment by scheduling a campus visit.

Visit »

  • Course code:
  • Credits:
  • Semester:
  • Department: