(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s nationally-accredited Department of Chemistry has been awarded a prestigious, $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
The NSF funding – part of the agency’s “Major Research Instrumentation Grant”’ program – provides for the acquisition of a 400 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. The instrument will advance research and research training activities at SOU, and expand students’ use of modern scientific equipment in undergraduate chemistry courses already known for their hands-on instrumentation approach.
The new spectrometer, similar to an MRI scanner but used to determine the molecular identity of chemical species, will provide ready access to advanced NMR techniques and its low-aluminum probe will allow on-site analysis of aluminum-containing compounds. The new spectrometer is expected to be available by spring 2023.
“This instrument will increase the breadth and depth of research in the areas of aqueous aluminum chemistry, synthesis of important industrial and medicinal organic compounds, and structural identification of bioactive natural products,” said professor Hala Schepmann, the chair of SOU’s Department of Chemistry and Physics. “It is a state-of-the-art instrument that will support faculty and student research as well as our ongoing efforts to provide upward social mobility to historically underrepresented students by offering a relevant and rigorous curriculum, extensive hands-on instrument training and numerous opportunities to participate in faculty-mentored research and research communication activities.
“SOU values real-world opportunities for its students, and the availability of advanced instrumentation for chemical research puts us on par with the top undergraduate programs in the U.S.”
Schepmann led the NSF grant application process as principal investigator, and was joined by SOU Chemistry Department faculty members Anna Oliveri and Samual David as co-principal investigators. She also credited several SOU administrators and staff members with supporting the successful funding request.
This is Schepmann’s second NSF grant (2019, $1M) in the past three years and the NMR project is the second NSF grant announced this fall with SOU faculty members in leadership roles. A three-year, $1 million grant through the NSF’s Computer Science for All program will help local kindergarten-through-fifth-grade teachers develop the “computational thinking” skills of their students.
“These are exactly the kinds of funding opportunities that we are actively encouraging our faculty members to pursue,” said SOU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Susan Walsh. “They expand our abilities to serve our students and communities in exciting, relevant ways.”
NMR spectrometers enable scientists to study the physical, chemical and biological properties of both organic and inorganic compounds. The new instrument will be used at SOU to advance aluminum chemistry, organic chemistry and natural products research investigations. It will also support the Chemistry Department’s long-held incorporation of NMR instruction throughout its curriculum, beginning with a dedicated Organic Spectroscopy course and laboratory taken by STEM majors in their sophomore year.
The National Science Foundation said in approving the SOU grant request that NMR spectroscopy “is one of the most powerful tools available to chemists for the elucidation of the structure of molecules.” The grant is supported by both the NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation program and its Chemistry Research Instrumentation program.
“Access to state-of-the-art NMR spectrometers is essential to chemists who are carrying out frontier research,” the NSF said. “This instrument enhances the educational, research, and teaching efforts of students at all levels in the department.”