October 10, 2008   
Contact: Emanuel Costache ’09
Media Relations Intern

AMHERST, Mass.—Helen O. Leung and Mark D. Marshall, professors of chemistry at Amherst College, have been awarded a three-year, $377,936 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The funding will support continued spectroscopic studies of gas-phase van der Waals complexes formed in a pulsed jet.

The grant will enable Leung and Marshall and their undergraduate researchers to pursue two lines of inquiry, as well as the construction of an instrument they describe as “particularly well suited for research at an undergraduate institution.” “The first inquiry,” they said in their proposal, “seeks to understand the effects of electron density on complex geometry, and the second addresses possible electron transfer in complexes with metal atoms, which has implications for both metal surface interactions and for properties of nanoclusters.” Key to this new study is the construction of a chirped-pulse Fourier transform microwave spectrometer, an instrument that uses a new “chirped-pulse” method, developed at the University of Virginia, to acquire data in about one percent of the time taken by traditional methods.

In addition to broadening their students’ fundamental understanding of molecular interactions, Leung and Marshall will provide their undergraduate researchers—including senior thesis students as well as first-years, sophomores and juniors—with an opportunity to perform challenging research with some of the newest techniques and instruments. The pair plans to take their students to present their findings at academic conferences and national meetings, and they expect that the undergraduates will co-author publications in peer-reviewed journals as well.

Marshall and Leung regularly co-teach an introductory course in chemistry in addition to their own advanced courses in quantum chemistry and thermodynamics.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $6.06 billion. The NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to more than 1,900 universities and institutions. Each year, it receives about 45,000 competitive requests for funding and makes more than 11,500 new funding awards. For more information about the NSF and its programs, visit www.nsf.gov.