Professor Brian Smith, chemistry, is pursuing research befitting his name. Like blacksmiths and silversmiths before him, he is making materials — but at the molecular level. Smith's research focus is the synthesis and engineering of crystalline materials.
"Much like bricks in a house, chemistry gives us the tools to both synthesize molecular building blocks and design how they assemble into a structure," he says. These structures dictate the material's properties, which can be used to address complex world problems.
For example, Smith designs highly porous materials for water purification and desalinization. These molecular frameworks can improve water filtration efficiency because of their high surface areas and ease of incorporating specialty binding compounds.
"We work with changes at the nanoscale, so they're extremely small, but they dictate material performances on the human scale, and the results can be global in nature," Smith says. "Accessing more clean water for agricultural use, at a lower energy cost, is one piece of that larger sustainability puzzle."
Smith sees research opportunities for undergraduate students as a prime form of active learning. His own opportunity to perform laboratory research in his first year of college dramatically shaped his career.
"I think that research experience is essential," he says. "It teaches you so much — problem-solving, interpreting information and collaborating with others. One of the great things about Bucknell is the support for high-level research, but with a central goal of student development and growth. It's fun to be a part of that."
Posted Oct. 7, 2016