Congressman Lee secures $500,000 for equipment

Congressman Chris Lee announced during a campus visit on Dec. 4 that the college is slated to receive $500,000 in funding for the purchase of a new nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer.

The spectrometer will replace the chemistry department's older, less powerful model. Lee spearheaded the appropriation of federal funds for this purpose.

David Geiger, chair of the chemistry department, said that an NMR spectrometer functions in a similar manner to an MRI. Users insert a sample into what Geiger called the "heart" of the machine, an encased magnet surrounded by liquid helium and nitrogen. The sample is then centrifuged, producing a spectrum that is recorded by a computer. Researchers can access the data through a workstation that receives information from the computer.

Geiger called the NMR spectrometer "an incredibly powerful tool" and "the workhorse instrument for the chemistry department." He said the machine is "essential" and that about two-thirds of the faculty uses the NMR spectrometer for research.

Eric Helms, chemistry professor, said that an NMR spectrometer provides researchers with a "three-dimensional picture of exactly what a molecule looks like." An NMR spectrometer can be particularly valuable for synthetic research, as it allows researchers who are building molecules to verify that they have put the molecule together correctly.

Helms said that much of the current research involving the NMR spectrometer at Geneseo is synthetic. His current research involves synthesizing plant molecules, and the NMR spectrometer allows him to check the structure of his laboratory-created molecules against naturally-occurring molecules.

Geiger said that the NMR spectrometer is also being used for projects seeking to convert solar energy to practical and useful energy.

Helms said that research is a collaborative effort between professors and students, and that students will be actively involved in research using the NMR spectrometer. Geiger added that any student who takes coursework beyond organic chemistry will become familiar with the NMR, and that those students will be "more marketable when seeking employment or admission to graduate school."

According to Geiger, Geneseo will become one of very few four-year colleges to own such an advanced NMR. Helms said that it is "impressive for a college of Geneseo's size" to own this machinery, which will "put Geneseo on par with research universities."