Columbus State Adding High-Tech Lab Equipment for Chemistry

COLUMBUS, Ga. - Columbus State University will soon bolster its chemistry program with high-tech equipment to study the structure of molecules thanks to a $200,000 federal grant.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded the grant, which will provide a 60-megahertz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectrometer, which uses a magnetic field to provide high resolution imagery of the structure of chemical compounds.

The spectrometer, to be installed and computer-interfaced as early as December in a Lenoir Hall chemistry lab, will be a modified version of an instrument utilized at the highest levels of research, including “green chemistry” that scientists use to reduce toxic compounds in the environment.

The NMR spectrometer is among the most powerful and user-friendly tools available to scientists, said CSU Assistant Professor of Chemistry Joseph Rugutt, who will direct the integration of NMR spectroscopy into the university’s undergraduate chemistry curriculum. “The spectrometer will be a workhorse instrument for undergraduate and graduate science courses that are being redesigned to incorporate inquiry and research-based experiments.”

For example, students will conduct exercises that involve extracting, purifying and identifying toxic compounds from analgesics. Also, students will learn important techniques such as developing environment-friendly methods for synthesizing chemical compounds and analyzing evidence from simulated crime scenes.

Nearly 300 CSU undergraduate science majors per year are expected to use the spectrometer. The instrument also will be made available for faculty and students at Chattahoochee Valley Community College, Columbus Technical College and regional high schools.

A panel of CSU science faculty members will evaluate the impact of the spectrometer and its associated inquiry-based curriculum on student performance and publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals.

Rugutt said the new lab equipment will reinvigorate the chemistry program and reinforce CSU’s mission “to achieve excellence in the student experience and prepare individuals for a life of success, leadership and responsibility through community awareness, engagement and service to others.”

Overall, the advanced curriculum complements the university’s initiative to increase the number of students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.