Roanoke Acquires New Instrumentation

Chemistry department receives nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, UV-visible spectrophotometer

Access to modern instrumentation is essential for undergraduate students to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in graduate school or the workforce. At smaller liberal arts colleges, this is often a challenge, but Roanoke has met that challenge head on.

"At Roanoke, first semester freshman use instruments that are available only to seniors or graduate students at many other schools," says Dr. Gail Steehler, chemistry department chairperson, "Our alumni tell us that their experiences with instrumentation here distinguish them from the norm when they enter graduate school or the workforce."

In an effort to enhance the student's experience with instrumentation, the College has recently ordered two new instruments. The first is a new 400 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, which will replace the current 300 MHz NMR. Similar to an MRI used in hospital settings, NMR is the most powerful instrument a chemist uses to study the structure of molecules.

The new NMR will provide better resolution, greater sensitivity and newer technology. With the higher resolution provided by the NMR, students and professors will be able to work with more complex samples than before. Future research involving a variety of biomolecules will now be possible. In addition, the NMR offers a wider range of 2D techniques, thus providing more specific information about chemical and biochemical structures. Funds for acquiring this instrument came from a grant funded by a private Richmond foundation and the support of an individual donor.

The second instrument recently acquired by the College is a diode array UV-visible spectrophotometer. The UV-vis analyzes samples that absorb this spectrum, and as one of the most widely used instruments at the College, it will be used by students in all courses.

This UV-vis is different from any other previously owned by the College as it looks at all the colors of the spectrum at one time, and thus can obtain a full spectrum in one second versus the many minutes previously required. The new instrumentation will allow for new experiments, such as kinetic studies of reactions over time that were previously impossible to perform with current instrumentation, and will allow more students to use the instrumentation in a shorter period of time. A grant from the Pittcon Memorial National College Grants Program, which was matched by the College, funded this purchase.

Released: April 2, 2007