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National Science Foundation grants fund state-of-the-art equipment for student and faculty research

EWING, NJ… The National Science Foundation (NSF), under its Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program, has awarded the College with two grants to aid the acquisition of state-of-the-art laboratory research equipment.

A $261,086 grant to the School of Science’s Department of Chemistry will be used to acquire a 400 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer (NMR), and a $99,985 grant to the School of Engineering has been reserved for the acquisition of an integrated electric power system test bed.

The spectrometer will support the research of six faculty members and their undergraduate students with interests in inorganic, organic, materials and biological chemistry. The power system test bed will enable faculty and students to engage in advanced power engineering and renewable energy research.

In both cases, the grants afford an opportunity for the College to continue its commitment to undergraduate research training and high school outreach education, in addition to traditional teaching and research.

“This funding represents continued commitment from the National Science Foundation to support undergraduate as well as public institutions like The College of New Jersey,” said Anthony S. Deese, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Deese will direct the funds allotted by the test bed grant, which he applied for and acquired with support from Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Chair Orlando Hernandez and School of Engineering Dean Steven Schreiner.

The faculty members who will be using the spectrometer are Abby O’Connor, Danielle Guarracino, David Hunt, Stephanie Sen, Lynn Bradley and Heba Abourahma. Together, they have supervised the research of more than 35 undergraduate students over the past two years.

“The spectrometer will replace an instrument that is 17 years old, and it is a major upgrade in terms of capabilities and sensitivity,” said Hunt, professor of chemistry. “In addition, the award affords TCNJ the ability to provide undergraduates the opportunity to directly work with state-of-the-art equipment found in major research universities and in scientific-oriented industries.”

According to Hunt, acquisition of a 400 MHz NMR will provide students with routine, hands-on access to instrumentation that is necessary for undergraduate training in chemistry.

The test bed, explained Deese, will provide students and researchers with access to emerging “smart” technologies — such as photovoltaic cells, wind turbines, Ni-MH battery storage, solid-state power electronic converters, and embedded data acquisition/actuation capability.

It also represents the College’s continued commitment to the expansion of the power-engineering program, which has been growing in recent years, according to Deese.

Examples of this growth include featured courses on power system analysis and power electronics, as well multiple technically complex senior projects, including the solar-powered and fully-electric “Electrathon Challenge Vehicle” that is currently on display in Armstrong Hall.

Over the next year, engineering faculty and staff will also use this funding to create the “tentatively-named Smart Electric Power System (SEPS) Laboratory,” which will be located in Armstrong Hall, said Deese, who will serve as laboratory director.

“The introduction of relevant hardware will foster additional student interest and boost graduation of students with intention to enter a field whose workforce is rapidly aging,” Deese said. “… And perhaps most importantly, this funding will promote innovative and technically sound research in energy – research with potential to address the growing global need for ‘smart’ conversion, distribution, and utilization of energy in all forms.”