We Break Through
On the frontiers of chemistry
If Bucknell's Department of Chemistry were a Major League Baseball team, it would be World Series champions.
In a sweep, faculty went four for four this year, receiving grants in excess of a half a million dollars in external funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), America's leading agency for science grants. The grants will fund undergraduate summer stipends, research equipment, supplies and chemicals for the next three years. Typically less than a quarter of such proposals get funded.
"It's been an unprecedented year," says department chair and Professor of Chemistry Tim Strein, who is one of the grant recipients. "The four projects address an array of interesting questions in contemporary science. It is gratifying that the quality of the work being carried out by Bucknell faculty and students has received such a solid external endorsement. "
- Strein and Professor David Rovnyak are working to understand the precise functionality of bile micelles, which are electrically charged aggregates of natural occurring biomolecules that may be useful for drug delivery. ($159,185 over three years)
- Professor Charles Clapp is investigating enzymes called lipoxygenases. The enzymes work well as catalysts and could be useful in developing more efficient chemical processes with fewer by-products. ($150,000 over three years)
- Professor Molly McGuire is studying how water gets incorporated into clay minerals. Knowing more about the "swelling" process is critical to scientists' understanding of how plants get their nutrients and how contaminants move through the environment. ($119,572 over three years)
- Dean of Arts and Sciences George Shields is using high-speed computing to predict how and where water and other molecules will cluster to form clouds. The work may help climate scientists better understand how clouds will affect the pace of climate change. ($305,000 over three years)
The opportunity for Bucknell's students to get involved in these projects is as important as the fundamental reseach, says Strein. Each research team includes several undergraduates.
"Students are at the center of it all," says Strein. "They are working side-by-side with the faculty -- in the lab, on publishable work. They get to work with research-grade instruments, present their work at professional conferences and become co-authors on publications. In short, they are turning into scientists."