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Listen: Eric Tillman explain the grant and student research

LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Eric Tillman, assistant professor of chemistry at Bucknell University, will direct a $135,000 National Science Foundation grant to investigate the development of synthetic methods leading to polymers with specific functionality, which is important to the creation of new polymeric materials.

The three-year grant, effective Feb. 1, is for a project titled "Synthesis of Amine-Terminated Polymers." Polymers are large, chain-like molecules that have widespread use in society in everything from plastic bottles to drug delivery systems.

Tillman and his students are studying fundamental reactions that lead to the exact placement of specific groups in polymer chains, imparting properties that may allow them to serve as reaction catalysts, undergo self assembly, and be converted into myriad other desirable groups.

Polymer chains
"This project focuses on a synthetic pathway that places an amine end group on vinyl polymers at the onset of the polymerization, meaning that the amine group is anchored to the growing polymer chain," he says. "The ultimate goal of this research is the synthesis of chemically diverse polymers bearing secondary amine groups at the end of each polymer chain."

Tillman said it was research involving Bucknell undergraduate students that helped to establish the viability of the proposed work.

"Without their results, the grant probably wouldn't have been funded. Because to get a grant like this not only does the idea have to be deemed a pretty good idea, you also have to have some preliminary results," said Tillman.

Student experiences
Students who work on this project will gain experience in synthetic polymer and organic chemistry, while being trained to characterize their polymeric products using gel permeation chromatography, ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

Typically, he said, this sort of research at other institutions would involve just graduate-or higher level students. "I think for undergraduates to be working on something like this is probably rare," Tillman said.

Grants proceeds will cover research instrumentation and supply purchases, undergraduate and graduate student and faculty salaries, and related travel.

Already, preliminary research, written by Tillman and two undergraduate students, was published in 2007 in Macromolecular Rapid Communications. Additional publication is anticipated in 2008.

Contact: Office of Communications

Posted Jan. 28, 2008


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