National Science Foundation Awards $174,000 Grant to Mercer To Improve Undergraduate Chemistry Lab Experiences


MACON — The National Science Foundation has awarded Mercer University $174,574 to help it advance undergraduate research in chemistry. The grant will pay for equipment and provide funds for six students to work as researchers using a “studio lab” approach over the next two summers. The grant will also pay for Mercer professors and students to present their research at regional and national conferences and for the professors to expand the learning approach to other top-flight undergraduate chemistry programs.

“The studio lab provides students with a unique experience to examine challenging and relevant scientific problems through an interdisciplinary approach,” said Dr. Kevin M. Bucholtz, associate professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and director of undergraduate research. “The format prepares students to think like an independent scientist and conduct novel research within the undergraduate curriculum.  We are very excited to provide our students with this opportunity and to prepare them for their future careers.”

The NSF made the grant to the Chemistry Department of the College of Liberal Arts through its program Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, and Engineering and Mathematics. The three chemistry professors who will lead the project are Dr. Dale E. Moore, Dr. David R. Goode and Dr. Caryn S. Seney. The title of the two-year grant is “Going Further: An Integrative Approach to a more Research-Oriented, Exploratory Junior-Level Lab.”

“A studio lab is an open format lab, so we, as mentors, rather than giving the students written, straightforward procedures to follow will give them springboard ideas with information from the literature and ask them to expound on the literature through experiments, conversation and shared problem solving,” Dr. Seney said. “This lab will build more successful students in terms of communicating, working as a team of scientists, performing research and to think more deeply at solving real world problems. We are one of the few institutions that provide such an experience for our junior-level students in chemistry.”

The majority of the grant will go to purchase an isothermal calorimetry instrument (ITC), which will help all three Mercer professors advance their research agendas, while also advancing student learning. The equipment will also be integrated into student research, Dr. Seney said.

“All of the research projects have utility in the real world,” Dr. Seney said. “Our students will learn a holistic approach to research as a result of this award, because now they will have access to an ITC, which will allow them to perform similar experiments on vastly different chemical and biochemical problems.”

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,300 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah – and four regional academic centers across the state. The Mercer Health Sciences Center launched July 1, 2012, and includes the University’s medical, nursing and pharmacy schools and will add a fourth college – the College of Health Professions – on July 1, 2013. Mercer is affiliated with four teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The University also has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program.
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