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Chemistry professor receives National Science Foundation grant

Loyola press release - October 30, 2007

(New Orleans)—This fall, the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded a proposal by Lynn Vogel Koplitz, Ph.D., Loyola University New Orleans professor of chemistry, entitled, “Trans-Atlantic Summer Program in Computational Chemistry for Undergraduates.” The planning grant provides funds for Koplitz, who is the principal investigator, and an undergraduate research student to travel to the University of Zurich , Switzerland, in summer 2008 in order to do collaborative research. Koplitz and her counterpart in Zurich, Dr. Kim Baldridge, will also plan and write a grant proposal to establish a longer-term grant-supported collaboration that will fund other Loyola students for similar travel and research in the future.

The project is part of Koplitz’s ongoing research into chemical interactions in certain ionic crystals. Koplitz and her team are doing “computational science,” which involves calculations, in trying to understand how “weak” (exotic) hydrogen bonds affect a system of compounds called “3-cyano-N-methylpyridinium halides.” They use calculations to describe and predict the results of these interactions, instead of only observing through experiments. These results can complement experimental data and point the way toward new discoveries.

Koplitz and her team, including five undergraduate co-authors, have published two papers on the project so far. The fact that they have already demonstrated a fledgling collaboration with some support from Loyola University and University of Zurich probably contributed favorably to the NSF decision to fund the grant.

Loyola chemistry majors Mary Spulak, class of 2008, and alumnus Ryan Ivie, A ‘06, both Barry M. Goldwater Scholars, have been involved in the project. Both Spulak and Ivie spent 10 weeks in Zurich during the summers of 2007 and 2005, respectively, learning to use quantum chemistry programs to calculate and display data for the project. They brought back skills and preliminary calculational results to Koplitz and Loyola to apply to the project. Spulak is teaching Koplitz and another student how to run the programs she learned to use. Ivie’s Honors thesis, “A Computational Investigation of Weak Hydrogen Bonding in the 3-Cyano-N-methylpyridinium Halide Crystals,” was based on this work. Spulak is currently working on additional computations for the project and will also write her Honors thesis from these experiences.

Koplitz has been a member of the chemistry faculty since 1988. As the director from 2004-2006, Koplitz is credited with reviving the University Honors Program in just two years, overcoming the obstacles that Hurricane Katrina and a canceled fall semester posed. In 2005, Koplitz received the Honors Professor of the Year Award and the University Senate Service Award. She received Loyola’s highest faculty award, the Dux Academicus, in 2006. Koplitz has published in many scientific and scholarly journals and has co-authored two books.

For more information, please contact Lynn Koplitz at (504) 865 3274 or koplitz@loyno.edu