Coe receives $390,000 NSF grant to fund new instrument

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
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2012-09-05 14:33:24 - General

Coe College has received a $390,389 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to purchase a new hybrid Raman Spectrometer/Scanning Probe Microscope device. The instrument will allow faculty and students from Coe - as well as researchers from Cornell College, Mount Mercy University, Rockwell-Collins and Square D (Schneider Electric) - to carry out simultaneous measurements on a single sample without the need to move it.

The grant was written by faculty from the Coe physics and chemistry departments. Physics Professor Mario Affatigato is serving as the principal investigator for the project, with co-principal investigators Chemistry Professor Maria Dean, Chemistry Professor Steve Singleton and Physics Professor Steve Feller. The proposal was funded through the Major Research Instrumentation Program of the Division of Materials Research.

"The ability to take multiple measurements without moving the sample is particularly important in doing nanoscale work, where moving the sample often results in the loss of information regarding the location of changes on the surface," explained Affatigato. "This instrument can also channel light using hollowed 'tips,' resulting in the focusing of light well beyond that attainable from a common microscope."

The new technology will enhance the on-campus scientific research opportunities for Coe students, who get access to scientific instruments that are oftentimes reserved for graduate students at other institutions.

"The grant's impact on students will be quite significant, as it will allow the college to train its undergraduates in equipment that is critical in today's nanotechnology," said Affatigato. "This will be the most advanced state-of-the-art instrument in the sciences at Coe."

The new instrument is expected to be installed in the newly renovated Peterson Hall of Science in February, with full operation expected in the summer of 2013. According to Affatigato, there are fewer than 100 such instruments in the country, and most are at major universities or industrial research centers.

The funding is the latest in a series of external grants received by Coe's science programs over the past two decades, with more than $1 million received from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the past five years. In addition, Coe received a prestigious $4.7 million grant from the NSF for this summer's major renovation of Peterson Hall.

Coe is currently one of five small colleges in the U.S. to host a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site, also supported by the NSF, which provides opportunities for students from Coe and other colleges across the country to conduct research in chemistry and physics.