Seven FCSM faculty awarded over $500,000 in NSF research funds

By Vonnie Shields and Megan Bradshaw on October 17, 2016

The all-female, interdisciplinary team of Fisher College faculty received the grant from the Division of Materials Research.

L to R (front row): Kathryn Kautzman (chemistry, senior personnel), Rajeswari Kolagani (PAGS, Co-PI), Ellen Hondrogiannis, (chemistry, senior personnel)L to R (back row): Vera Smolyaninova (PAGS, Co-PI), Amy Williams (PAGS, Co-PI), Vonnie Shields (biological sciences, PI), Mary Sajini Devadas (chemistry, Co-PI)
L to R (front row): Kathryn Kautzman (chemistry, senior personnel), Rajeswari Kolagani (PAGS, Co-PI), Ellen Hondrogiannis, (chemistry, senior personnel)L to R (back row): Vera Smolyaninova (PAGS, Co-PI), Amy Williams (PAGS, Co-PI), Vonnie Shields (biological sciences, PI), Mary Sajini Devadas (chemistry, Co-PI)

Jess and Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics (FCSM) faculty Vonnie Shields (PI, biological sciences), Mary Sajini Devadas (Co-PI, chemistry), Rajeswari Kolagani (Co-PI, PAGS), Vera Smolyaninova (Co-PI, PAGS), Amy Williams (Co-PI, PAGS), Kathryn Kautzman (senior personnel, chemistry), and Ellen Hondrogiannis (senior personnel, chemistry) were awarded a Major Research Instrumentation Grant (MRI) from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Materials Research for over $530,000 to span 2016-2019.

The proposal, entitled “MRI: Acquisition of a field emission scanning electron microscope with STEM and EDS capabilities for interdisciplinary research and education at Towson University,” supports the purchase of a state-of-the-art low vacuum field emission scanning electron microscope (FESEM) capable of obtaining images of various materials and biological specimens with extremely high (nanoscale) resolution.

It will be used to analyze the chemical composition of materials with high precision and to advance research in several areas of biological, chemical, geological and physical sciences in Fisher College 

This ultrahigh-resolution, imaging, and chemical analysis offered by this microscope will enable breakthrough discoveries that will impact the fundamental science and meet the needs in ongoing and future research projects in inorganic, electronic, photonic, environmental, forensic, entomological and geobiological material.

In addition, it will make a decisive impact in generating advanced scientific understanding, increased speed of research turn-around, and technological innovation by researchers at Towson University and its committed users from neighboring institutions Loyola University of Maryland and Goucher College.

Projects will enhance our understanding of how and what chemosensory information is detected, analyzed, encoded, and responded to by the insect nervous system, exploring and manipulating the behavior of materials at extremely small size limits that underlie nanotechnology, harnessing the power of ‘meta materials’ to achieve superconductivity at high temperatures with the potential of revolutionizing many technologies including power transmission and quantum computing, developing catalyst materials that are essential for achieving viable renewable and clean energy technologies, and understanding the mineral biosignature preservation in geological systems, which is the key to finding life forms in extraterrestrial habitats.

These projects will provide unique hands-on opportunities for undergraduate and master’s students and collaborating institutions who will be trained and supervised by the faculty members on the use of this advanced instrument for interdisciplinary research. In addition, this instrument will enhance classroom and laboratory instructions in several undergraduate and master’s level courses offered in FCSM.