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Department earns NSF grants

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

High-Pressure Liquid Chromatography instrument

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry professor and Chair Latha Ramakrishnan powers up the department’s new High-Pressure Liquid Chromatography instrument.

GCMS High-Pressure Liquid Chromatography instrument 

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is getting some major upgrades thanks to two grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

In July the Foundation awarded the department a $281,884 Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program grant for the purchase of a new 400 megahertz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer. The NMR is expected to arrive by spring semester and will be used both for research and classroom experience, said Latha Ramakrishnan, Department of Chemistry professor and chairwoman.

The Foundation also awarded St. Cloud State a $154,767 grant from its MRI program grant for the purchase of a Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS) instrument.

In addition to the NSF funded equipment, the department also installed a new High-Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) instrument this summer with funding from the College of Science and Engineering. 

“This all has happened since 2012,” Ramakrishnan said. “The last couple of years the chemistry program has added new and advanced instrumentation capability for faculty-student collaborative research and hands-on instrumentation training in undergraduate teaching.”

St. Cloud State chemistry program has received $596,030 through four NSF awards since September 2012.

The department purchased a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GCMS) with a $129,809 MRI program grant in 2012. The GCMS, which is used for separation and characterization of small volatile chemical molecules, is used for collaborative faculty and student research and classroom training.

These include projects designed to determine if prescription drugs are making their way into wastewater treated in the city of St. Cloud, the development of new molecules for use in chemotherapy medications and a flatworms study, Ramakrishnan said.

In addition to equipment the awards, NSF awarded St. Cloud State a $29,570 Catalyzing New International Collaboration (CNIC) award in 2013, which supported Ramakrishnan and undergraduate student John Wade’s collaboration with researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata in India.

Ramakrishnan and Wade spent two weeks this past summer working with researchers in India on a project to develop polymeric nanoparticles to study the transmission of nerve impulses in the brain of a type of flatworms to determine the species’ use in studying neurological diseases such as epilepsy.

Their research continues this year at St. Cloud State and will make use of the new equipment, she said.

This kind of scientific instrumentation plays a major role in providing a quality experience for students and preparing them for the work force.

“We want our students to go on and work in the industry as chemists in product development and product testing,” she said. “We need to have them exposed to these instrumentation so they are ready to do it.”

The instruments will also be used for outreach. St. Cloud State professors are working in collaboration with Eden Medical Inc., a biomedical device company out of Howard Lake, Minn., through a National Institute of Health grant to develop hydrogels for making self-sealing ostomy pouches, Ramakrishnan said.

They also collaborate with North Hennepin Community College to bring community college students to St. Cloud State for hands-on experience with advanced scientific instruments.

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