Southeastern scientist awarded NSF grant for chemical research
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
by: Rene Abadie
MOLECULAR RESEARCH – Southeastern Louisiana University Associate Professor of Chemistry Thomas Sommerfeld, right, talks with senior chemistry major Joshua Melugin of Gonzales about the computer simulation research work they are doing under a grant from the National Science Foundation.
HAMMOND – Southeastern Louisiana University Associate Professor of Chemistry Thomas
Sommerfeld has been awarded a $101,786 grant from the National Science Foundation.
The three-year grant will allow Sommerfeld to investigate how extra electrons aid in breaking chemical bonds while also providing undergraduate students with real-world learning opportunities.
“Chemical bonds are electrons that are shared between atoms,” Sommerfeld said. “They can be thought of as a glue that holds the atoms in a molecule together.”
He explained that the bonds can be weakened by both too little and too much “glue,” and weakened bonds then be cleaved during the permanent motion of the atoms. Among examples of how this reaction is seen is in damage to living tissue by radiation in cancer therapy with electron beams.
In his research, Sommerfeld will try to identify reliable, cost-efficient methods of developing novel computer simulation methods that characterize the electron emission from unstable molecules.
His grant allows the employment of several undergraduate chemistry students to work with him on the project.
“The project allows me to introduce undergraduates on mini-projects that are indirectly related to my research first,” he said. “These projects can be addressed with standard quantum chemistry methods so that students learn the research techniques step-by-step. It’s a great opportunity that only a few undergraduate chemistry students experience.”