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Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration Leads to NSF Equipment Grant for Le Moyne

In an initiative that further strengthens its reputation for the cultivation of student-scholars in the sciences, Le Moyne College recently learned it has received a federal grant for new scientific research equipment.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced last month that Le Moyne will receive a grant totaling $112,000 under the NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program.  The funds will be used to purchase a powder X-ray Diffractometer, or XRD, a device which allows scientists to analyze the composition of crystalline materials like minerals. This fall, Le Moyne will install a Rigaku Miniflex XRD, which is both user-friendly and well-suited to the College’s needs and facilities. The XRD will enhance ongoing research in geology, chemistry, physics, and environmental studies, shedding light on topics ranging from mass extinction to the future productive uses of carbon dioxide.
The three members of the Le Moyne College science faculty collaborating on the successful grant application are: Dr. Lawrence H. Tanner, professor of biological sciences; Dr. Anna Y. O’Brien, assistant professor of chemistry, and Dr. David A. Craig, associate professor of physics.
In congratulating the three co-principal investigators, Le Moyne College Provost and Academic Vice President Linda M. LeMura said, “They submitted a fantastic proposal that captured the interest of the NSF. Through their efforts, Le Moyne College is now part of the moniker of the hyper-competitive world of NSF grant making.”
Learning of the award after returning from a trip to the Galapagos Islands with 10 Le Moyne students and four faculty, Tanner noted, “This equipment opens a world of research opportunities for students in geology and the environment.” Tanner and his students will use the XRD to study both modern soils, and ancient soils from key periods in geologic history, such as the Triassic-Jurassic boundary, in order to investigate processes and rates of climate change.
Reached in Sweden where he is attending a conference, Craig stated that Le Moyne’s physics students will use the XRD in coursework, independent research, and senior capstone projects, where it will help in the study of the nuclear physics of x-ray generation.

The Sciences at Le Moyne
Le Moyne has over 430 science majors, and employs about 60 full- and part-time faculty in the sciences. Undergraduate science students at Le Moyne have the important opportunity to work directly with the faculty on research, and to hone their presentation skills through the popular Friday afternoon “Science Seminar” series, as well as at national professional conferences. These experiences can translate into admission to top graduate schools.
As noted in the NSF grant proposal, as they gain experience using this powerful analytical tool, students from across a wide range of scientific disciplines will be inspired to explore varied approaches to scientific problems and, ultimately, to pursue careers in scientific research. At least 24 undergraduate student researchers per year will benefit from access to the equipment, Tanner estimates.
Le Moyne is actively seeking to build cutting-edge research opportunities for undergraduates through many different strategies, to help meet a national need identified in 1998 by the Boyer Commission report “Reinventing Undergraduate Education.” (pdf)  The Physics and Astronomy Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research has even proposed that “a significant research experience” should be required of every undergraduate student in physics and astronomy. Le Moyne College’s Student Research Task Force has studied this issue, issuing recommendations in an October 2008 report, and the College’s annual Scholarship Day event has also highlighted academic achievements of student scholars.
Provost LeMura praised the “tireless commitment in support of our faculty” made by Steve W. Kulick, Le Moyne’s director of corporate and foundation relations, in helping secure this grant. Working with members of Le Moyne’s faculty across several departments, Kulick is currently coordinating eight different major grant proposals, primarily at the state and federal levels, for a total of $9 million.
The grant follows upon many other achievements and plans afoot in the sciences this year at Le Moyne. Among other news, the beloved SEM (scanning electron microscope) used by generations of Lou DeGennaro’s developmental biology students will soon be replaced through another federal grant, and sophomore Nicholas Stam was awarded a Goldwater Award for his research in cellular biology.
About the co-principals

Educated at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, University of Tulsa, and Williams College, Dr. Tanner has taught at Le Moyne since 2004. His primary research interests are the Mesozoic period, volcanic eruptions, and climate change. He has numerous publications to his credit  and is director of Environmental Studies at Le Moyne College, as well as director of the College's Center for the Study of Environmental Change.
Trained in chemistry and engineering at the University of Toledo and Syracuse University, Dr. O’Brien specializes in environmental and analytical chemistry. She also completed post-doctoral work at Colgate University, and has taught at Le Moyne College since 2007.
Dr. Craig received his degrees from Princeton University and the University of California, Santa Barbara and has taught at Le Moyne College since 2005. He specializes in general relativity, quantum mechanics, and the intersections between quantum gravity and quantum cosmology.

More about the NSF...

posted on: 6/30/2009