Southeastern Chemist receives NSF grant to encourage undergraduate research
Contact: Rene Abadie
HAMMOND – A Southeastern Louisiana University organic chemist has received a $218,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop more efficient methods of chemical transformations while providing undergraduate students opportunities to participate in the research.
Debra Dolliver, associate professor of chemistry, said the 36-month grant is intended to help create more efficient approaches to developing compounds widely used in the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries. The work will be conducted in collaboration with Kevin Shaughnessy and Timothy Snowden of the University of Alabama Department of Chemistry.
Dolliver said many steps are involved in the synthesis of compounds, which are sometimes complicated by unwanted byproducts, incomplete chemical reactions or decompositions.
“These complications add costs to the production of chemicals, so the industry is always looking for different and more efficient ways to perform the transformations,” she explained. “Our team will be looking at new chemical transformations that hopefully will avoid some of these complications.”
The research will be performed largely by undergraduate students under the supervision of Dolliver and her colleagues. The students will perform the research at Southeastern during the fall and spring semesters. The project will then transfer to the University of Alabama, where the students will continue the research in collaboration with UA faculty.
“By working with our partners at the University of Alabama, we provide our students – many of whom are first-generation college students – with the opportunity to work at a large research institution with access to highly sophisticated equipment and expertise typically found in a large research institution.”
Dolliver said the department has made a concerted push over the last decade to provide a competitive undergraduate research experience for the students.
“This grant represents a further extension of that effort,” she said.
Dolliver is a faculty mentor for Southeastern’s student-run SEAL (“Student Entrepreneurs as Active Leaders”) program, which links undergraduate students with scientists at area plants and industries who are looking for cost-effective answers to puzzling problems in their work.