Above: Dr. Douglas Swartz stands near an older machine in the chemistry lab that will soon be upgraded to offer student researchers an important hands-on experience. (Photo: West Liberty University)

Most people don’t have a clue what an Atomic Absorption Flame Spectrometer is — however to a chemistry professor it’s an amazing piece of equipment to enhance student research. Thanks to support from several sources, West Liberty University is looking forward to adding one to the chemistry lab soon.

“Dr. Douglas Swartz just received a grant that will combine with WLU Foundation funds to purchase this impressive instrument for our chemistry labs,” said Dr. Chad Kuhns, who is the chairman of the Department of Physical Sciences and Mathematics in the College of Sciences.

The WLU Foundation provided a matching grant to assist in the funding of the important machine that assists in analytical work used to determine how much of certain elements are in a sample.

“I received the grant through the Pittsburgh Conference Memorial National College Grant for $10,000. The WLU Foundation contributed $12,000 in supporting funds to purchase a Flame Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer,” explained Dr. Swartz, who is an associate professor of Chemistry and assistant coach of the women’s basketball team.

“Thanks to our generous donors, we are in the position to provide matching funds and leverage important grant support. That’s just one reason funding from private donors is such an important part of enhancing our student experience and our curriculum,” said Angie Zambito-Hill, president of the WLU Foundation.

The grant Swartz wrote was selected from 41 grant submissions.

Awarded by the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (Pittcon), a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation, the money is awarded to the science departments of colleges with less than 5,000 full-time students for the purchase of scientific equipment, audio-visual or other teaching aids, and/or library materials for use in the teaching of science at the undergraduate level.

“The acquisition of the instrument will allow us to analyze metals in a variety of samples. We are excited to incorporate this instrument into the chemistry laboratory curriculum. We plan to include experiments that highlight the utilization of this instrument into analytical chemistry, instrumental analysis, biochemistry, and our special topics course related to water quality surrounding the Ohio Valley,” Swartz said. 

The spectrometer will be purchased and installed during the 2022 spring semester and will be ready to use during the fall 2022 semester.

“The primary use of the instrument will be for teaching purposes, however there are opportunities for students to use the instrument in research projects related to metals reclamation of decommissioned electronics and metal contaminants in local water sources,” he said. 

The chemistry program has sought to acquire this instrument for a while.

“Bringing these funding sources together to add it to WLU’s laboratories elevates the program to a new level,” noted Kuhns.

Today’s modern workforce depends on individuals with scientific and technological skills, according to the West Virginia Department of Education. From health care to environmental stewardship, a countless number of personal and societal issues require citizens to make informed decisions based on their understanding of science and technology.

WLU’s College of Sciences prides itself on its student-focused teaching, learning and research environment dedicated to excellence in undergraduate and graduate education. 

From West Liberty University News