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New equipment grant will give faculty, students a look inside molecules

Chemistry professor Greg Springsteen talks in his lab with student Chandler Joel Rhea in a January 2018 photo.

Furman University has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant to acquire a 500 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer for interpreting the composition of molecules.

This is the second major NSF MRI award to Furman from this annual competition in as many years.

The $485,000 grant was based on a proposal by Furman Chemistry Professor and principal investigator Greg Springsteen, and co-investigators Timothy Hanks, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry, and Mary Beth Daub, assistant professor of chemistry.

Chemistry professor Greg Springsteen.

Essential to chemists who are carrying out frontier research, NMR spectroscopy is one of the most powerful tools available for clarifying the structure of molecules. It is used to identify unknown substances, to characterize specific arrangements of atoms within molecules and to study how chemicals interact with each other.

Thousands of Furman students will learn to operate the instrument over its lifetime and interpret the resulting data. Students will also play an active role in maintaining and repairing the NMR, which will help prepare them for future roles in science and medicine since, for example, hospitals use similar technology – known as MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging – to diagnose torn ligaments and tumors.

Widely accessible, the new instrumentation will also be shared with neighboring community colleges, historically black colleges and universities and first generation-serving institutions. Additionally, it will be used in collaborations with local industry to strengthen regional scientific infrastructure.

Generally, NMR studies aid in improving the understanding of synthetic chemistry, materials chemistry and biochemistry. At Furman, the NMR spectrometer will be used by 10 different research groups for projects including the exploration of the origins of biological metabolism; the development of biosensors and drug-delivery vesicles; enhancing the efficiency of solar energy conversion; and the synthesis of new classes of anticancer, anti-fungal and antibiotic drugs.

The projects enabled by the NMR spectrometer may lead to advances in new materials, next-generation diagnostics and more effective medicines.

For more information, contact Greg Springsteen at 864-294-2763. Or contact Furman’s News and Media Strategy office at 864-294-3107.

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