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La. Board of Regents Grant Funds New Chemistry Equipment at Loyola

Loyola press release - July 25, 2017

Students in Loyola’s chemistry laboratories — from general chemistry to “Chemistry of the Crime Scene” classes — will be using the new equipment, starting this fall

A leading chemistry professor at Loyola University New Orleans has received a grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents that will help to provide exciting new equipment for state-of-the-art chemistry laboratories in Loyola’s newly renovated $93 million J. Edgar Monroe Hall. Competition was steep; the Loyola proposal was rated second among 36 submissions that requested a total of $3,436,689. Only 10 proposals were funded this year.

Dr. Lynn Vogel Koplitz, a chemistry professor who was named the Earl and Gertrude Vicknair Distinguished Professor at Loyola in 2008, won an Enhancement grant from the Board of Regents valued at $124,491. The grant (LEQSF(2017-18)-ENH-TR-14) will fund the purchase of new equipment used in the characterization of powdered samples for teaching and research in all chemistry labs at Loyola. Joining Koplitz as investigators on the grant are: Dr. Anna Duggar, director of Forensic Chemistry at Loyola; Dr. Christine Heinecke, assistant professor of chemistry; Dr. Qian Qin, assistant professor of chemistry; Dr. Clifton Stephenson, assistant professor of chemistry, and Dr. Amelia Neuberger, director of laboratories.

The project will help Loyola to educate and train future scientists, engineers and teachers in order to promote economic development in Louisiana. It will also help Loyola to develop forensic scientists to serve the needs of law enforcement in the state and beyond.

“Students and graduates will have increased opportunities to do research and internships because of their experience with these instruments,” Koplitz said. “These new capabilities are especially relevant for research into organic conductors, supramolecular systems and nanoparticles, all recently added research areas for our department, and for our growing program in forensic chemistry. A new collaboration with scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory will facilitate ongoing study for graduates and current students who become interested in the chemistry of solids.”

Atoms and molecules, even large, “macro” molecules, are too small to be seen by the naked eye. To characterize matter, scientists generally rely on indirect techniques. One such technique is x-ray diffraction, whereby a sample is bombarded with high frequency radiation and the resulting diffraction patterns are used to determine the sample’s crystal structure. X-ray diffraction patterns collected by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling were used by Watson and Crick to determine the structure of DNA in 1953.

The new tools will establish at Loyola the capability to characterize powdered samples in terms of crystallinity and electronic energy levels. With the grant funds, Loyola will purchase a powder x-ray diffraction instrument and a diffuse reflectance accessory for an existing spectrophotometer. Both instruments permit the analysis of pure solids as well as multicomponent mixtures without the need for extensive sample preparation.

“This equipment will greatly enhance our existing research and teaching infrastructure,” Koplitz said. “These instruments are invaluable tools for those of us who work with solids. Our undergraduates will also gain special insight by using the instruments themselves in order to do their own analyses.”

The new tools, which will be purchased in August and fully integrated into laboratories during the 2017-2018 academic year, will enhance hands-on teaching and undergraduate research in the areas of solid-state structure and analysis at Loyola, starting this fall, Koplitz said. Students will use the new tools in chemistry laboratory courses, including: General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Synthesis and Characterization, Integrated I, Physical Chemistry, and a forensic chemistry lab titled “Chemistry of the Crime Scene”.

According to manufacturers, the Rigaku Miniflex 600 PXRD that Loyola plans to purchase is “the fastest and most powerful benchtop x-ray diffraction system in the world.” And with the OLIS CLARiTY sample chamber, a specialized accessory that will support Loyola’s OLIS absorption spectrophotometer, “Scatter doesn’t matter.”

“With this capability, we aim to vastly improve our students’ fundamental understanding of solid-state structures by going beyond merely descriptive considerations of cubic unit cells in general chemistry,” Koplitz said. “Furthermore, we will apply that more sophisticated understanding to identify components in both pure and mixed powder samples.”

This knowledge and experience will position Loyola students well as they apply to graduate programs and professional schools, or when they seek employment in industries that depend on the ability to analyze and characterize solid-state materials, Koplitz said.

Undergraduate research is part of the student experience at Loyola, where students have the opportunity to work alongside professional scientists to partner in collaborative and grant-funded research. Learn more about some recent research and projects currently underway in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.