The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded Emmanuel College more than $350,000 to support a project under the direction of Associate Professor of Chemistry and department chair Aren Gerdon, Ph.D., to mentor undergraduate students researching in biomaterials, mineralization and biomimetics and to impact STEM education on the secondary level.
Dr. Gerdon's project, "RUI: DNA and nanoparticle assemblies as biomimetic templates for calcium phosphate mineralization," will primarily support student researchers in their first or second year, and ensure these students contribute to the larger scientific community. This award from NSF, which will be distributed over the course of three years, is Dr. Gerdon's second as principal investigator in the last six years and the College's seventh in the last decade, now totaling more than $2M.
"The wonderful thing about this support from the NSF is that you are only funded a second time if you were successful the first," Dr. Gerdon said. "The undergraduate research students who dedicated themselves to these projects over the past five-to-10 years produced the results, publications, and conference presentations that demonstrated the high level of research done at Emmanuel College."
This project will also bridge the College's science and education departments as it will directly impact high school STEM education by engaging and training a high school teacher in the research throughout the summer and then integrating the work into the teacher's classroom during the school year with interspersed visits from undergraduate researchers.
The award will broaden Emmanuel students' opportunities as they enter the industry workforce or graduate studies, and the cross-disciplinary nature of the project will allow for significant contribution to the scientific community of today and influence rising scientists of tomorrow.
"Our past students, now alumni, made this funding possible," Gerdon added. "In doing so, they opened the door for current and future students to engage in high level and impactful research that will make a difference and will prepare them for their future in chemistry."
Also approved recently, Dr. Gerdon contributed to an NSF Major Research Instrumentation proposal for the purchase a top of the line, high resolution, scanning electron microscope (HRes SEM) with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy capability. The instrument will be active in a shared facility at the University of Massachusetts Boston, for which Emmanuel has been named a major user, and available for Dr. Gerdon's undergraduate research cohort.