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Chemistry department awarded $10,000 PittCon grant

Barry McNamara
Monmouth College has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Pittsburgh Conference (PittCon) Memorial National College Grant Program to purchase equipment and supplies for its chemistry department.

The grant proposal, which centered around the addition of 16 Vernier LabQuest data acquisition systems and several accessory probes., was submitted by associate professor of chemistry Laura Moore.

“This is exactly the right time for us to upgrade our collection equipment,” said Moore. “We are revising our chemistry curriculum and upgrading and expanding our lab equipment in preparation for our move to the new Center for Science and Business in the fall of 2013.”

Moore’s colleague, assistant professor of chemistry Brad Sturgeon, will be the first to implement the equipment next fall, while Moore is on sabbatical.

“The Vernier data acquisition systems will allow the general chemistry student, as well as other students, to visualize the data during the data acquisition process,” explained Sturgeon. “Students benefit by seeing the process of data collection, as well as the final numerical outcomes. The process is a considerably more complex subject involving kinetics, which is not introduced into the curriculum until more advanced classes. The student will have this exposure early in their coursework, and when it comes time to learn kinetics, the topic will not be foreign to them.”

Moore said the equipment will also speed up the process of collecting data such as pH and temperature – both in terms of faster collection and more students being able to work at the same time – allowing more time to be spent on interpreting the data.

“Data collection is important, but it’s not the most interesting or the hardest part of our experiments,” she said. “This will allow our students to spend more time thinking about why we did what we did and analyzing the results.”

Monmouth’s proposal was one of 13 selected for funding from 59 proposals received for consideration. What might have helped distinguished MC’s proposal, Moore said, was “the learning that will take place with this new equipment” and the fact that the college is matching the $10,000 grant with money from an equipment endowment fund established by the late William LeSuer, a 1942 MC graduate. “Putting some of our own money up showed that we’re serious about this proposal.”

Established in 1974, the grant program serves as a memorial to deceased members of the Pittsburgh Conference committee by promoting excellence in science education. Through the program, small colleges can enhance their science curricula through grants to purchase equipment and course materials.