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Research Grant from American Chemical Society Will Fund Student Research in Switzerland, Develop Technology at Hiram

Hiram College is poised to begin research funded by the American Chemical Society in January 2012, thanks to the work of assistant professor of chemistry Jim Kercher, student Eileen Russell ’12 and alumnus Mike Mastromatteo ’11.

In October 2010, Mastromatteo (then a student) and Russell co-authored a proposal with Kercher, which was accepted by the Paul Scherrer Institut in Zurich, Switzerland. The proposal looked at putting different amounts of energy into a molecule and studying how quickly bonds break and what products are formed.

The trio was awarded four days of “beam time” at the Institut’s Swiss Light Source (SLS) during the Spring 2011 3-Week. There, they conducted experiments, using an imaging mass spectrometer to look at how the molecules fragment as a function of the energy put into them.

That research served as the foundation for the proposal to the American Chemical Society, for which Kercher was awarded an Undergraduate New Investigator Grant as part of the ACS’s Petroleum Research Fund.

The grant funds two years of research at Hiram College, starting in January 2012. Kercher said the grant will be used to continue the development of a a time-of-flight mass spectrometer at Hiram, which uses a much smaller and less sophisticated light source than the one in Switzerland. It will also fund two summer research stipends for students each year of the grant and travel to Switzerland, which would likely be completed during a Fall or Spring 3-Week.

In addition, a second proposal to the Paul Scherrer Institut was recently accepted, which will allow two additional students the opportunity to conduct research in Switzerland.

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