Nearly 10 years ago Sacramento State’s Chemistry Department began recruiting a new crop of instructors with a passion for both research and teaching. The department was determined to connect research projects with students by having them work side-by-side with professors in the lab on projects. This symbiosis has produced plenty of dividends the last few years.
Sacramento State’s proactive scientific endeavors prompted designation as an Emerging Research Institution last year. This gives the University an even greater presence as it competes for federal funding.
The department has netted more than $3 million during the last decade via internal and external grants that have produced some exciting developments in the University’s chemistry labs and beyond.
Department Chair Susan Crawford cites a recent $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that paid for a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer that significantly increases the department’s research capabilities by enabling faculty and students to study more complex molecular structures. This instrument was obtained through a multi-faculty proposal submitted to the highly competitive NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program.
Access to special equipment such as the spectrometer allows chemistry students to gain hands-on experience that makes them prime candidates for graduate programs and industrial recruiters. Last year more than 90 students earned credit in independent study/research courses, most of whom presented the results of their experiments at regional or national research meetings.
The Chemistry faculty’s success in garnering external research grants from the NSF, the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Petroleum Research Fund and the Research Corporation has made it possible for many students to secure paid research assistantships during the summer.
Interdepartmental cooperation is a cornerstone of research grants. A case in point is the chemistry department and the biological sciences securing an NSF grant to renovate a joint center in Sequoia Hall. The Center for Interdisciplinary Molecular Biology: Education Research and Advancement (CIMERA) promotes rapid scientific advances and coordinates public service programs. It gives students the hands-on laboratory experience they need to advance their careers.
Chemistry professor Bradly Baker received two NSF grants to research reactive compounds emitted by plants into the atmosphere that can affect climate change.
Professor Katherine McReynolds’ laboratory research on novel molecules that could ultimately provide a new therapy in the global fight against HIV/AIDS is being financed by an NIH grant and Research Corporation. She was just presented the 2010-2011 President’s Award for Research and Creativity.
Last spring the chemistry department hosted the annual American Chemical Society’s Northern California Research Symposium. The day-long meeting attracted more than 200 participants from universities throughout the region. We were chosen to host, Crawford says, “due to our strong presence at the previous six annual meetings”