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NSF Grant Will Support Cooperative Research Between UWFox, Lawrence University

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A $435,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Major Research Instrumentation program will support a wide range of research by Lawrence University and University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley scientists and students.

The grant will fund the purchase of a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer, which will be housed in the Lawrence chemistry department.

Similar to a hospital MRI machine, a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer is used by chemists and biochemists to determine the molecular structures of a wide variety of compounds, ranging from proteins to drugs.  The NMR spectrometer will assist Lawrence faculty and student research across a broad range of interests as well as other scientists throughout northeast Wisconsin, particularly UWFox Associate Professor of Chemistry Martin Rudd and his undergraduate students.

“It’s gratifying that the National Science Foundation values research training at Lawrence so highly,” said Stefan Debbert, assistant professor of chemistry and the principal investigator on the grant proposal.  “This grant will enable us to further cement our commitment to hands-on, student-driven research in chemistry and biochemistry.”

In awarding the grant, NSF reviewers noted the proposal was “an extraordinary example of a public two-year college and private four-year university in a mutually beneficial partnership. The proposal to share scientific equipment between both institutions is an excellent use of resources.”

“This collaboration between Lawrence University and UWFox is a wonderful example of how an outcome can be more than the sum of its parts,” said Jim Perry, UWFox campus executive officer and dean.  “The National Science Foundation sees value of two very different types of institutions working together for the common good of their students. As a consequence, both Lawrence and Fox students have a state-of-the-art piece of equipment to use.  Hopefully, this will foster even more joint work between our two campuses.”

Debbert, a specialist in organic chemistry, expects the machine will receive a nearly round-the-clock workload from students and faculty across the physical and biological sciences. An autosampler will allow large batches of samples – for example from a whole class of organic chemistry students – to run overnight, and students can download and analyze their data from computer labs on the Lawrence and UWFox campuses.  

“My research students and I will use it to identify and characterize the many new compounds we make in the lab as part of our ongoing efforts to develop new treatments for cancer, inflammation and septic shock,” said Debbert.  “Several of my colleagues in the chemistry and biology departments, as well as Professor Rudd, will take full advantage of it in their own research programs, in projects studying viral peptides, bacterial metabolites and novel inorganic and organometallic materials. 

“This new NMR will bring people from Lawrence and UWFox together to build new relationships, share ideas and develop fruitful collaborations,” Debbert added.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency dedicated to advancing scientific discovery and training future researchers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Through competitive, peer-review grant programs, the NSF underwritesapproximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted at America’s colleges and universities.

Posted 10/02/2009