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Spotlight on Student-Faculty Collaboration

SFC-Sheridan-with-spotlightPhillip Sheridan, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and his students use laser excitation spectroscopy to characterize chemical bonds in small molecules. Understanding chemical bonding is fundamental because it determines molecular geometry, functionality and reactivity.

Because the molecules studied in Dr. Sheridan’s laboratory are short-lived, chemically-unstable species, they require a highly-specialized laboratory apparatus for investigation. Dr. Sheridan and his students have designed, machined, assembled and optimized a laser ablation/molecular jet spectrometer system capable of synthesizing these molecules. They use complex laser systems as a probe and record and interpret spectra that allow for molecular properties to be ascertained.

Recently, Connor Tumiel ’17 investigated the calcium formate (CaO2CH) radical.

Connor’s work represents the first synthesis of this molecule in this type of spectrometer. Analysis of the spectra he recorded will allow him to determine if the calcium atom is bonded to one or both of the oxygen atoms. Dr. Sheridan considers his work with undergraduate students in the laboratory to be a great collaborative experience that allows his students to apply their classroom knowledge to a research situation.

Pictured above: Connor Tumiel ’17 next to the laser ablation/molecular jet spectrometer in Dr. Sheridan’s laboratory.

Submitted by: Sara Morris, associate vice president, academic affairs