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College of Science & Mathematics

A Bright Future


In the words of Tabbetha Dobbins, assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy, the Rowan University Science Hall will be getting a new “water cooler,” that she hopes all majors will be able to congregate around. Thanks to a grant of $280,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Rowan University will be able to purchase a Combination Raman and FTIR Spectrometer. Well, not exactly a water cooler- but it’s sure to have everybody talking.

In February of 2013, Dobbins, principle investigator of the grant, and her team consisting of Dr. Michael Lim, Dr. Samuel Lofland, Dr. Timothy Vaden and Dr. Xiao Hu, submitted a proposal to the NSF requesting funds to replace the current 20 year old spectrometer. Starting Sept. 15, 2013, the NSF has granted Rowan $280,000 for two years towards a new machine.

“Our current spectrometer still gives us information, but it isn’t so easy to operate,” said Dobbins.

Spectrometers primarily use a laser in order to produce data. Compounds are placed beneath a microscope, upon which an external laser shines upon it. The outgoing laser beam then carries information about the sample into a spectrometer chamber. Data is then sent to the user who can determine the behavior of bonds and types of bond vibrations by analyzing changes in light patterns.

External Lasers on the current Science Hall Spectrometer

“Some of the parts are old and when we adjust them, it throws off the entire calibration and affects the experiment,” said Dobbins. The new spectrometer features something that the current one doesn’t, in that all the laser are concealed within the machine, leaving no external lasers, mirrors or lenses to adjust.

“This makes the machine so much easier to use, and now can encompass all different majors,” said Dobbins. She envisions more people collaborating on projects, as well different schools to interact with the machine. According to the proposal (NSF #1338014) sent to the NSF for the grant, 24 undergraduate, 16 graduate, and 216 other students per year will be affected by the new spectrometer in courses offered including: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Forensic Science, and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The faculty does not plan on disposing of the other machine just yet, but has another option in mind.

“It will perform better for some experiments; because the lasers are external on the old [spectrometer], we can do experiments with it at different laser wavelengths not available on the new instrument. Also, because it isn’t being used all the time, it will perform better for such experiments,” said Dobbins. She also believes that the spectrometer will open doors to new experiences.

“Previously, with new equipment, several of our students have become fluent in the technology, resulting in other Universities requesting assistance in operating and experimenting their own machines,” said Dobbins. “A machine like this gives hundreds of students the opportunity to learn something new and take it with them in to their futures.”

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