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The Rev. Joseph Levesque, C.M., president of Niagara University, speaks with students inside the new B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences. The academic building is set to open this fall. (contributed photo)
The Rev. Joseph Levesque, C.M., president of Niagara University, speaks with students inside the new B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences. The academic building is set to open this fall. (contributed photo)

Niagara University secures Pittcon grant to bolster equipment, programs in new Golisano science center

by jmaloni

Press release

Mon, Mar 11th 2013 10:20 pm

As the B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences takes shape on the south side of campus, Niagara University faculty members continue to investigate ways to furnish the state-of-the-art facility with the latest in scientific instrumentation.

Last week, Niagara learned that it had taken another step toward this goal, securing a Pittsburgh Conference Memorial National College Grant from the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy. The maximum funding available this year for each grant is $10,000 and is awarded to the science departments of colleges with less than 5,000 full-time students for the purchase of scientific equipment, audiovisual or other teaching aids, and/or library materials for use in the teaching of science at the undergraduate level.

Only 12 awards were granted nationwide.

Niagara University will match Pittcon's $10,000 grant to purchase equipment and instruments for its goal of establishing a collaborative environmental science program among its biology and chemistry departments. The program would be housed in the university's interdisciplinary science facility, which is set to open this fall.

"Many people don't realize that the actual construction of a science center - as truly remarkable as it is - only provides the framework for all that we're planning to offer our students," explained Dr. Christopher S. Stoj, chair of NU's biochemistry, chemistry and physics departments, and one of the grant's principal investigators (with Dr. Robyn Goacher). "In just a few months, we are going to open the doors to an incredible facility and we want to make absolutely sure that our students will have every opportunity to utilize it to its fullest capacity."

Goacher, assistant professor of chemistry and the grant's second principal investigator, noted that, "The majority of the funds will be earmarked to purchase portable outdoor and indoor air sampling devices, and accessories for the department's ATR-FTIR to allow for the environmental analysis of the samples."

Those items include:

•Two traditional deployable particulate samplers with a shared air-flow meter for the collection of particulate matter, and one deployable vapor sampler for sampling volatile organic compounds. These battery-operated units are designed to withstand outdoor weather conditions and are used by the U.S. Army for field monitoring. These devices allow for measurement of time-averaged concentrations of particulate matter and VOCs as required by many EPA methods.

•The multipurpose 3M/Quest EVM-7 environmental monitor, which simultaneously monitors and logs gas concentration and particulate mass in real time. The time-logging aspects of this portable instrument allow students to actively monitor indoor air pollution in a "walk around" situation and to retroactively study the detailed time log of contaminant concentrations to consider whether an exposure event occurred during a time when people occupied a building.

•Three sets of Soxhlet extraction glassware so that students in analytical, instrumental, environmental and/or field ecology can extract organic compounds from soils and study the partitioning of contaminants between water and soil phases.

•Diffuse reflectance and gas cell accessories for the department's new FTIR instrument. The DRIFT accessory will be used to directly analyze organic contaminants adsorbed to soils in the environmental chemistry curriculum, and will allow for comparisons between direct measurements of mixed systems versus protocols involving extraction, chromatography, and subsequent analysis. The gas cell will be used in general chemistry courses to illustrate what makes a gas IR active within the context of climate change, and will also enhance the physical chemistry lab experience by allowing students to perform the HCl/DCl experiment, which illustrates the connection between bond strength, bond length and molecular vibrations.

Co-sponsored by the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh, Pittcon is the premier annual conference and exposition on laboratory science. Proceeds from Pittcon fund science education and outreach at all levels, kindergarten through adult. Pittcon donates more than $1 million a year to provide financial and administrative support for various science outreach activities, including science equipment grants, research grants, scholarships and internships for students, awards to teachers and professors, and grants to public science centers, libraries and museums.

For more information, visit http://www.pittcon.org.

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