April 9, 2010
10-068

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

Science Equipment Takes Center Stage

VALDOSTA -- Valdosta State University invites community members to explore the university’s collection of high-tech science equipment during a ribbon cutting ceremony at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 15, in the Hugh C. Bailey Science Center atrium.

VSU President Patrick Schloss and the College of Arts and Sciences will host the ceremony to unveil the Advanced Spectroscopy and Biotechnical Facility, housed in the science center. Equipment for the departments of Chemistry, Biology and Physics, Astronomy and Geosciences was funded through the Major Scientific Equipment funding pool, which Schloss established to purchase scientific equipment that costs $50,000 or more.

Dr. Connie Richards, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the addition of more than half a million dollars worth of sophisticated devices has expanded the university’s research capabilities and exposed students to the latest scientific technologies being used in a variety of practical and academic arenas.

Following the ribbon cutting, guests are invited to roam through laboratories, where they can observe as professors demonstrate the complex machines and showcase their educational and practical relevance.

Those interested in attending the ribbon cutting must RSVP by Tuesday, April 13, to Mark Mears, administrative assistant to the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, at memears@valdosta.edu or 229-333-5699.

Read below for more information about the impressive technologies to be revealed at Thursday's event.

BIOLOGY
Dr. John Elder, professor of biology, and a handful of students are trained to use the LiCor 4300 Infrared Automated DNA Sequencing and Genotyping System -- the only such sequencing and fingerprinting equipment on a university campus from the University of Georgia to Florida State. The genetic technology, which performs microsatellite DNA fingerprinting and genotyping, enables students to probe into biological and biochemical realms -- from gene study to genomics research.

“The system brings cutting-edge DNA technology and research capability to VSU and the region that was previously unavailable to our faculty and students,” said Elder, who specializes in population and molecular genetics. “Student training in these molecular genetic techniques will significantly improve their future opportunities in the field.”

Research projects underway that require the LiCor 4300, include DNA microsatellite fingerprinting to study potentially endangered minnow populations on Isle Royale National Wilderness area. Researchers are also using the system’s microsatellite fingerprinting to study population structures among locally distributed water moccasin snakes. Elder said he hopes the addition of the system will invite students and faculty from a variety of disciplines to collaborate on future research projects.

“This particular system was intentionally designed to be rugged enough to perform well under continuous teaching use by many students,” said Elder. “Because the system does not use radio isotopic labeling to detect DNA signals, it is very student friendly avoiding possible radiation hazards and waste disposal issues common to non-automated approaches.”

The Department of Biology will also be demonstrating the Spectra Max M5e Multi-Detention Reader, which detects ultraviolet and visible light absorbance as well as luminescence signals; the Atomic Absorption Spectrometer, which detects low levels of a wide range of elements; and the Avanti J26XP Centrifuge, which enables students to gain experience in core molecular techniques.

For more information about the department’s equipment, call department head Dr. Robert Gannon at 229-333-5759 or e-mail him at rlgannon@valdosta.edu.


CHEMISTRY
Dr. Tolulope Salami and his research team successfully prepared a new two-dimensional compound (VALD-1, which denotes Valdosta State University structure # 1). The structure was discovered using the department’s latest technology the Rigaku MiniFlex II X-Ray Diffractometer, which is capable of evaluating a compound without destroying it. The synthesis structure and characterization of the material was published in the November 2009 edition of Inorganic Chemistry Communications.

Beyond research, the diffractomer has served a number of practical applications. Dr. Jesse Spencer, professor of analytical chemistry, said the compound identifier has aided in solving problems at VSU and in the community since the university purchased the equipment in October 2009.

“A vacuum line in our department kept getting clogged, so maintenance brought us a sample, and we determined that it was a copper hydroxide chloride, which meant there was too much hydrogen chloride in the line, “ said Spencer, who has worked at VSU since 1984. “We also helped an Eagle Scout candidate determine that paint in a house he was remodeling for his service-learning project was not laced with lead.”

Salami said that both undergraduate and graduate students are using this equipment, which is employed in a wide variety of fields. For researchers, it provides structural determination of various materials, such as porous materials used in drug delivery systems; and for industries, it determines if products, such as cement and chemicals, have the proper distribution of materials.

During the ribbon cutting, chemistry will also showcase the FT-NMR Instrument System. The instrument analyzes samples from experiments and confirms results prior to publication of research findings or presentation of class projects. The Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometer enables faculty and students to analyze research samples locally rather than sending them to outside labs. It identifies and confirms the purity of novel compounds the university is producing for cancer research.

For more information about the department’s equipment, call department head Dr. Jim Baxter at 229-333-5798 or e-mail him at jbaxter@valdosta.edu.


PHYSICS, ASTRONOMY & GEOSCIENCES

The purchase of nine illuminating Olympus Petrographic Microscopes has enabled geosciences faculty and students to examine the mineral characteristics of various rock formations through paper-thin slices of geological material. Purchased in February, the microscopes provide students and faculty researchers with sophisticated renderings of rock, mineral and metal compositions.

Dr. Mark Groszos, associate professor, oversees the eight advanced polarizing student microscopes and one research/teaching model with full digital imaging capabilities. Groszos said the department is using the microscopes in an upper-level undergraduate class that delves into the study of rocks and minerals. Several geosciences students plan to use the microscopes in their senior projects, and faculty members are incorporating the equipment into their research programs.

“These microscopes fill what was previously a very large hole in our geology curriculum,” Groszos said. “We intend to use the microscopes in several lab classes and in numerous senior thesis projects. We are currently teaching a trail class about optical mineralogy and petrography, which is currently in the approval process to add to the regular curriculum.”

Petrographic microscopes are used in all branches of the advanced study of rocks, minerals, and other Earth materials. Chemists, engineers, archaeologists, and forensic scientists also use the microscopes to study crystalline material and metals.

The Department of Physics, Astronomy and Geosciences also acquired the 500 MHz Digital Advanced Phosphor Tektonix Oscilloscope, which analyzes the spectral properties of signals over a broad range of frequencies. The Z-650 3D Printer creates high-resolution 3D models of objects, such as fossils. The Ground-Penetrating Radar omits radar pulses that create images of subsurface geological units, such as aquifers and underground sinkholes. This unobtrusive method allows scientists to observe an area -- such as buried structures, cemeteries, bedrock and mines -- without disturbing the ground.

For more information about the department’s equipment, call department head Dr. Edward Chatelain at 229-333-5752 or e-mail him at echatela@valdosta.edu.