Assistant Professor Shanen Sherrer and Colleagues Awarded St. Mary’s College’s First NSF MRI Grant

By: Michael Bruckler, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

St. Mary’s College of Maryland was awarded its first National Science Foundation (NSF) Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI) grant using lead investigator Assistant Professor of Biochemistry Shanen Sherrer’s expertise on circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy.

Geoffrey M. Bowers, assistant professor of chemistry; Randolph K. Larsen, professor of chemistry; Jessica L. Malisch, assistant professor of physiology; and Pamela S. Mertz, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, are co-PIs, with assistance from Laboratory Coordinator Doug Hovland as senior staff and collaboration with Lindsay Jamieson, associate professor of computer science, on this project.

The NSF grant provides funding for the acquisition of a CD spectrometer and accompanying equipment for faculty research and student training opportunities. The $121,819 grant started on October 1, 2019.

The acquired CD spectrometer will monitor rotational change in circularly polarized light as it passes through a sample with chirality (molecules with non-superimposable bonds like a mirror image). Most biomolecules and metal-containing complexes have at least one chiral center and thus are favored for CD spectroscopic studies in biochemistry, biology, biophysics, inorganic chemistry, materials science, and geochemistry.

The CD spectrometer will be used by faculty and undergraduate researchers for probing macromolecular structures or changes to chemical properties under specific experimental conditions to yield information on structural composition, stability, changes, and thermodynamics of targeted molecules.

The CD spectrometer planned for purchase is a high performing model with a wide range of accessories for maximum flexibility in both research and teaching applications.

The acquisition of a CD spectrometer by St. Mary’s College will significantly advance several critical research projects in the areas of biology, biochemistry, geochemistry, and environmental studies.


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