Bannow Research Lab Gets High-Tech Makeover
Fairfield University students returning to their studies at the Bannow Science Center will soon be discovering some high-tech advancements to their once familiar research space. From the construction of a brand-new organic chemistry lab to the acquisition of a state-of-the-art mass spectrometer, the University’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department has been busy implementing a series of recent technology upgrades that promise a cutting-edge educational experience for students across multiple disciplines of study.
When summer break began last May, so did renovations on one of Bannow’s most highly used research labs. Four months later, the fully modernized organic chemistry lab is just one week away from its classroom debut and poised to offer students a meaningful learning experience that integrates interactive teaching tools, like Apple TV, with professional grade research stations that emphasize safety and chemical hygiene. The new ADA-compliant lecture and laboratory space accommodates up to 16 students and features 11 hoods - or workspaces - where budding scientists can perform the most advanced chemical manipulations both safely and efficiently.
Associate Chemistry Professor Dr. L. Kraig Steffen says that the new lab space – a project he passionately spearheaded with Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Dr. Aaron Van Dyke – will be instrumental in accommodating the increased demand of students interested in studying the sciences at Fairfield.
“As the number of natural science, biochemistry, bioengineering and pre-med students continues to grow, so does our need for space, specifically in our introductory lab courses,” Dr. Steffen explained. “With this new workspace, we can run labs in the morning, afternoon and evening, and provide space for students conducting research with faculty members over the summer.”
Beyond its ability to serve more students, Dr. Steffen also noted that the renovated lab offers hands-on, state-of-the-art equipment training that many students at other universities do not have access to during their undergraduate studies.
“The laboratory equipment and instrumentation is the same or similar to what they will encounter in industrial labs and graduate schools,” Steffen said. “We’re providing our students with the opportunity to conduct practical research on cutting-edge equipment that they can take with them into the real world.”
Another technology advancement yet to make its arrival in Bannow is the addition of a MALDI-TOF (Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization – Time of Flight) mass spectrometer, a scientific instrument used to identify chemical compounds based on molecular weight, that was recently acquired by the chemistry department through a $271,000 Major Research Instrumentation grant award from the National Science Foundation. The proposal, spearheaded by Assistant Chemistry Professor Dr. Jillian Smith-Carpenter with the assistance of Dr. Aaron Van Dyke, Dr. Matthew Kubasik, Dr. John Miecznikowski, and Assistant Biology Professor Dr. Catherine Andersen, was selected as one of only 150 award-winning proposals from of a pool of over 800 applications.
Beyond the instrument’s ability to revolutionize the caliber of scientific research conducted at Fairfield, the MALDI-TOF is the only one of its kind available in Fairfield County, and will allow the University to develop deeper relationships with surrounding universities, whose students and faculty will also have access to this exciting new research tool.
“Acquisition of the MADLI-TOF completely transforms the type of research students and faculty can engage in at Fairfield,” saidDr. Smith-Carpenter. “It touches on a variety of disciplines from chemistry and biology to engineering and nursing and brings us in closer connection with outside universities. By pooling resources with these neighboring schools, the quality of our research, and our ability to solve environmental and health issues as scientists, grows exponentially.”
Dr. Smith-Carpenter says that the acquisition of this equipment is just one more thing that distinguishes Fairfield from other schools.
“In addition to supporting the research goals of over ten principal investigators in the departments of chemistry, biochemistry and biology, the acquisition of the MALDI-TOF offers pedagogical opportunities to train undergraduate students from a variety of scientific disciplines to use sophisticated research-grade instruments. You can’t get that level of experience everywhere, but you will soon be able to have that experience here at Fairfield.”