University of Ouachita Baptist chemistry teachers Dr. Sharon Hamilton and Dr. Sarah Hubbard have been awarded a small instrument grant of $14,135 from the Arkansas IdeA Network for Excellence in Biomedical Research (INBRE).

They used the money to purchase a spectrophotometer and a fluorometer for use by students in the Ouachita Department of Chemistry. The scholarship was provided by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health.

Hubbard, associate professor, Neil A. Mundy, chair of the chemistry department, and Hamilton, associate professor of chemistry, were notified of their award in January. They teamed up with Dr. Christine Pruitt and Dr. Ruth Playmall, associate professors of biology at Ouachita, to bring the tools to campus.

They purchased two pieces of equipment for the chemistry department: a NanoDrop OneC Microvolume UV-Vis Thermal Spectrophotometer and an Invitrogen Qubit 4 Fluorometer.

According to Hamilton, the two tools can analyze samples up to 1,000 times smaller than their larger counterparts.

“Reducing the need for large sample sizes allows us to run experiments on a small scale, which saves money and is considered greener with fewer reagents.”

Both tools will be used in Ouachita’s chemistry and biology classes to provide students with extended hands-on experience with field-related equipment — a feature, Hamilton said, not typically offered at small liberal arts colleges and universities.

“We strive to expose our students to devices they may see in their workplace or graduate labs,” she added. “These updated, compact gadgets are exactly the kind they will see in their future careers.”

Regarding faculty utility, Hamilton said, “These new devices will allow Ouachita faculty in chemistry and biology to extend their research and laboratory teaching topics to include the synthesis and isolation of a variety of drug molecules, dyes, proteins, DNA, and antibodies.”

Both Hamilton and Hubbard will use a compact spectrophotometer and fluorometer package in their classrooms, enhancing their curriculum.

“I am very excited about pairing these new tools with existing techniques in quantitative analysis,” said Dr. Hubbard. “Students will be able to compare the performance of the new devices with tools we already have in the lab, and perform a statistical analysis to see which method is most accurate and accurate.

This experience will add new technologies to the students’ repertoire and raise their critical thinking skills, both beneficial for future career prospects.”

Hamilton said she is excited to use the spectrophotometer with her students in Organic Chemistry 2 as they develop potential treatments for neurological diseases. “This will be a new project for the class to further emphasize the techniques they learned in Organic Chemistry 1 and apply them to a real-world problem.”

The tools will be used in other chemistry and biology courses including Organic Chemistry II Lab, Quantitative Analysis, Instrumental Analysis, Chemistry I and II Experimental Techniques, Junior Biology Research Experience, Microbiology Lab and Applied Microbiology.

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