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College Awarded Grant from Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh

Posted on Friday, July 11, 2014

The Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh (SSP) recently awarded Westminster College with a nearly $5,000 grant to purchase an integrating sphere and accessories for a Lambda 35 UV-Vis spectrometer used by Westminster's chemistry department.

            Dr. Peter Smith, Westminster associate professor and chair of the chemistry department, and his research group are attempting to create new materials that have potential use in light-emitting devices like television/computer displays, LED or fluorescent lighting.  They can evaluate the usefulness of the materials they create by measuring their efficiency in emitting visible light, through the use of the Lambda 25 UV-Vis spectrometer.  However, the spectrometer as is can only analyze liquid materials, while the group's samples are solids. The accessories obtained through the grant will allow them to use solid samples.

            In addition to the research, the equipment will be used in four courses at Westminster: inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry lab, the advanced lab course and in the undergraduate research course.

            "Through the acquisition of a 50 mm integrating sphere, 70-100 students per year will be able to perform solid state spectroscopy," said Smith. "This tool will enable students to perform spectroscopic measurements that are not currently possible at Westminster College.  Knowing how to do spectroscopic analysis of solid materials is a very valuable skill for students entering the workforce or going to graduate school. It is definitely not a skill that is routinely taught at the undergraduate level and students from Westminster who have this skill will stand apart from the crowd."

            The SSP and its sister society - Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh (SACP) - is a non-profit organization dedicated to science education in Western Pennsylvania and promotes this through education programs and grant programs for educational institutions and instructors.

            According to the SSP website, "The SSP is dedicated to promoting science education in colleges and universities by providing instrumentation and supplies through the College Equipment Grants Program (CEGP). The purpose of this equipment grant is to contribute to science programs at colleges and universities with enrollments of no more than 7,500 undergraduate students."

            The chemistry program, through its courses, laboratory studies, seminars, and internships, introduces students to fundamental ideas in chemistry and encourages and enables students to develop critical thinking skills, to use logical reasoning, to improve problem-solving skills, and to clearly and effectively communicate science. Students also explore ethical responsibilities for scientific and technical work in society and relate the accomplishments and expressions of their discipline to those of other disciplines.

            The program, which is approved by the American Chemical Society, offers a bachelor of science in chemistry and biochemistry, a minor in chemistry, pre-professional programs (pre-med, pre-dentistry, pre-vet), an interdisciplinary program in environmental science, and a teacher certification program. It prepares graduates for careers as professional chemists, chemistry teachers, other technical professions, or entrance into graduate or health profession schools.

Contact Smith at 724-946-7299 or email for more information.

Dr. Peter Smith