September 27, 2023

Funding will expand research collaborations across the region

Susquehanna University has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation Program to help support undergraduate research and training while expanding collaborative research opportunities throughout the region.

The grant will support the purchase of a small molecule X-ray diffractometer, an instrument that renders accurate and precise measurements of the full three-dimensional structure of a molecule, said William Dougherty, associate professor of chemistry. The diffractometer, which will be housed at Susquehanna, is a rare piece of equipment for undergraduate chemistry departments and will aid research efforts at regional colleges and universities, including Bucknell University, which is a partner on the grant, and Elizabethtown and Lycoming colleges and Wilkes University.

As Dougherty explained, when students under the mentorship of faculty researchers create new molecules in the lab, the molecule needs to be positively identified before research can move forward. X-ray diffraction is one technique that helps with this identification. Currently, Dougherty and surrounding faculty at other institutions must send the molecules they create to other institutions for confirmed identification via X-ray diffraction. This takes additional time, can incur added cost and separates the researcher from their work, Dougherty explained. The addition of the diffractometer, which he expects will be in place by the end of the calendar year, allows researchers to continue their work uninterrupted while creating a unique training opportunity for Susquehanna’s undergraduate science students.

“This instrument is an integral part of teaching as well as research and in the training of undergraduate and master’s degree students in multiple disciplines, including chemistry and biochemistry,” said Swarna Basu, professor and chair of Susquehanna’s Department of Chemistry. “Susquehanna is committed to making this instrument available free of charge to our surrounding colleges and universities and their students.”

Dougherty said the diffractometer will support faculty-led research programs at Susquehanna and other regional institutions focused on everything from advancing the fundamental understanding of synthetic pathways and aiding in the development of new therapeutic platforms and imaging agents. “The compounds under investigation have applications in the field of medicine through the generation of molecular entities with anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, the creation of efficient contrast agents for imaging, and in improving approaches in pharmaceutical formulation,” Dougherty added.

This is the second grant awarded to Susquehanna through the NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation Program. In 2016, the university received a $224,000 grant for the purchase of an upgraded nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, an instrument that is heavily used by faculty and students in Susquehanna’s American Chemistry Society-certified Department of Chemistry.

Learn more about Susquehanna’s Department of Chemistry.