Chem department molecular structure lab grand opening

On Wednesday April 18, the chemistry department hosted the grand opening of a molecular structure laboratory in the Integrated Science Center.

The lab consists of new machines including various spectrometers such as a 400-megahertz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, as well as a single-crystal X-ray diffractometer.

Assistant professor of chemistry Eric Helms explained the purpose of some of the equipment, including the NMR spectrometer.

“It is essentially the same as an MRI except what we are able to do is take a molecule and put it in the machine to see its structure,” he said.

Helms said the machine functions like an old radio. It searches for the best frequency to get the best results, analyzes the content and produces a graph of the frequencies.

In a demonstration of the machine, Helms showed how simple it is to operate. After clicking a few buttons on the computer, the NMR produced a graph of the structure of the carbon molecule. “It took 20 years to determine the structure of penicillin, and now it’s accessible through this machine in minutes,” said Helms.

“[The lab] is a product of a $1 million congressional grant,” said President Christopher Dahl. “Geneseo is ranked third for [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] doctorates awarded to alumni of master’s institutions, and we are ranked tenth for all primarily undergraduate institutions.”

“[Geneseo doesn’t receive] the endowments that private schools beat us out in,” said Dahl. “We bet this equipment makes our chemistry program the best equipped undergraduate public college.”

“The net result is that we’re a powerhouse in producing students in S.T.E.M. fields,” he said.

Dahl also spoke to a number of graduating seniors accepted to prestigious graduate programs. One such student, senior chemistry major Lauren Healy, plans to attend Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in the fall.

“Exposure to this type of instrumentation as an undergrad is amazing,” she said. “It definitely gives you a leg up moving on to graduate school. Cornell was incredibly impressed that I had worked with such instruments before.”

Healey said the machinery “is really big for pharmaceuticals and companies that want to determine purity and structure.” She cited the Food and Drug Administration, which “can test for water purity and food quality.”

“Professionally [graduates will] be much more skilled than their competitors,” said Helms. “They’re going to step out [of Geneseo] and be ready to go.”