National Science Foundation Awards Fairfield University Faculty Over $450,000 in Research Funding

National Science Foundation Awards Fairfield University Faculty Over $450,000 in Research Funding

Angela Biselli, PhD, wears a hard hart in the experimental hall at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia.

Professors Angela Biselli, PhD, and John Miecznikowski, PhD, will spearhead new initiatives to engage undergraduate students in cutting-edge research experiences.

Not all undergraduate institutions can offer this type of research to their students, and the skill sets they gain will be very valuable for any science/technology related job they have in the future.

— Angela Biselli, PhD, professor of physics

The National Science Foundation has awarded the College of Arts and Sciences School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences and Mathematics at Fairfield University with more than $450,000 in grant funding to support faculty-student research initiatives in the fields of chemistry, biochemistry, and physics.

Physics professor Angela Biselli, PhD, was recently awarded a $148,413 grant for a three-year research study on the fundamental structure of protons and neutrons. The study, which will be conducted in collaboration with the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia, will examine how quarks, the sub-particles of protons and neutrons, directly affect the particles’ macroscopic properties.

Throughout the study, Dr. Biselli will travel to Jefferson Lab, where she and her fellow researchers will take shifts running experiments and analyzing findings that will impact scientists’ fundamental knowledge of what matter is made of. The professor’s undergraduate students will participate in weekly virtual meetings with the research collaborators at Jefferson Lab, as well as travel to the facility during the summer, affording them the unique opportunity to gain knowledge in nuclear and particle physics, obtain practical experience in data analysis, and develop broader skills such as coding and statistics. 

“I am deeply honored to receive this grant and am happy I can share this opportunity to conduct research in a nuclear physics lab with our undergraduate students,” Dr. Biselli said. “Not all undergraduate institutions can offer this type of research to their students, and the skill sets they gain will be very valuable for any science/technology related job they have in the future.”

In addition to Dr. Biselli, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry John Miecznikowski, PhD, with the support of his colleagues Matthew Kubasik, PhD, Jillian Smith-Carpenter, PhD, Aaron Van Dyke, PhD, and Lawrence K. Steffen, PhD, received a $306,950 Major Research Instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation to acquire a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

One of the most powerful tools available to chemists carrying out frontier research, the NMR spectrometer will be used by Fairfield chemistry and biochemistry faculty and students to identify unknown substances, characterize the arrangements of atoms within molecules, and study the dynamics of interactions between molecules in solution. The ability to carry out these experiments is essential to the study of biologically relevant species, as well as research studies that require the acceleration of chemical reactions.

Scheduled to arrive in May 2019, the 400 MHz NMR spectrometer will provide critical instrumental support for at least six faculty-student research groups, five of which originate from Fairfield University, and the sixth from a collaborative partnership with the Department of Chemistry at nearby Iona College. The instrument will also be used by Bridgeport high school students participating in the University’s Upward Bound and BASE Camp outreach programs.

Dr. Miecznikowski believes that this cutting-edge technology will help university students gain confidence in using the same scientific instruments utilized by chemists working in government laboratories, pharmaceutical and chemical companies, and top graduate schools around the world.

“Having advanced instrumentation on campus leads to more high-quality research opportunities, and prepares students for successful career and graduate program outcomes,” Dr. Miecznikowski said. “The acquisition of the NMR spectrometer will allow Fairfield University faculty and their collaborators to continue making frequent, scholarly contributions to the fields of chemistry and biochemistry.”

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Last modified: 09-14-18 9:28 AM


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