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ACU students and faculty research “green” processes, alternative fuel methods

By Floyd Miller



Abilene Christian University chemistry and biochemistry students are on the fast-track to having their names on research published in major international journals during the eight-week Summer Research Institute held by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. {{more}} This is the 19th year that the SRI has been funded with a departmental grant from The Welch Foundation, which supports basic chemical research within Texas. Fifteen students applied to be part of research efforts headed by five faculty members, and seven students were accepted into this summer’s institute, which began June 23 and will end August 8. “This is a very international group,” said Dr. Greg Powell, ACU professor of chemistry. “Three of the students participating this year are international students, and a fourth one was born in the Philippines and is a U.S. citizen now.”Powell is leading a team of students in researching a faster and more efficient way to create transition metal clusters, which act as catalysts for reactions, using microwave synthesis. With this process, they use fewer chemicals and less energy, making it a more eco-friendly approach.”It is unusual for undergraduate students to prepare a new compound and get an X-ray crystal structure of it in one summer, but my team has already done this in only four weeks,” said Powell.One student is working with chemistry professor Dr. Eric Hardegree to develop catalysts to more easily separate water into its constituents: hydrogen and oxygen. Easily obtaining hydrogen is a key to making hydrogen a practical alternative fuel. Another student is working with Dr. Brian Cavitt to create polymer materials that protect surfaces from the accumulation of bacteria. These materials could be used to coat equipment in hospitals, dental offices, water systems and kitchens, halting the growth of bacteria that cause illnesses and infections.Dr. Autumn Sutherlin and Dr. Kim Pamplin are also participants in the SRI, working with students in the fields of biochemistry and electrochemistry, respectively.The students involved in the SRI are:Funmi Adebesin, a sophomore from Lagos, Nigeria, Paul Dimaano, a senior from Abilene, Quyen Do, a senior from Hanoi, Vietnam, Christian Francis, a senior from Brooklyn, N.Y., Phillip Hendley, a junior from Hurst, Texas, Jade Jung, a sophomore from South Korea, and Brittney Newton, a junior from Abilene.Students who work in the SRI are given a $2700 research stipend for their eight weeks of work. The groups take field trips and hear guest speakers. They also have the unique opportunity to do as undergraduate students concentrated research that is often comparable to that done by graduate and doctoral students elsewhere.”We have a long-standing tradition of involving undergraduate students in our research efforts,” said Powell. “We offer our students a first-rate experiential learning opportunity in which they get to help advance the frontiers of scientific knowledge.”

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