Arts and Sciences Research Group Receives National Science Foundation Grant

Paul Bracher, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry; Elizabeth Hasenmueller, Ph.D., assistant professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences; and Daniel Warren, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, received a grant earlier this month from the National Science Foundation.

Arts and Sciences professors

Daniel Warren, Ph.D., associate professor of biology; Paul Bracher, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry; and Elizabeth Hasenmueller, Ph.D., assistant professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences teamed up to apply for the NSF funding out of a mutual desire to enhance their research.

This grant will fund the purchase of an ICP spectrometer that will enable their research teams to measure the concentrations of metals dissolved in solutions.

The total project cost (TPC) is $106,154. The NSF award is for 70 percent of the TPC, which is $74,308. The remaining 30 percent is covered by SLU as part of the program’s cost-share requirement.

The three SLU professors came together out of a mutual need for ICP spectroscopy in their respective research programs. The team applied for funding from the NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program in January and was selected for funding after a six-month merit review process.

Bracher’s research group is interested in determining how ions like potassium and sodium might have affected chemical reactions that led to the origin of life on Earth.

Hasenmueller’s group will use the instrument to measure the concentrations of metals in samples of water collected from the environment to study how human activity influences water chemistry.

Warren’s group will use the instrument to measure the mineral composition of bones and study how bone tissue changes when it buffers acidosis.

“The pending installation of the Optima 8300 ICP spectrometer will enable cutting-edge research projects across a number of departments at SLU,” Bracher said. “In my research lab, the spectrometer will allow us to accurately measure concentrations of potassium in water, which is a critical tool necessary in our investigation of how potassium may have influenced the chemistry that led to the origin of life on Earth, four billion years ago.”

The new instrument will also be used in a variety of courses offered in various departments in the College of Arts and Sciences. The acquisition of an ICP spectrometer will enable or enhance cutting-edge research projects across a variety of scientific disciplines at the University and will have broader impacts that extend beyond SLU’s campus and into the local community of St. Louis.

The instrument will enable hands-on, citizen-science activities for the analysis of local water supplies, and once in operation, the instrument will be publicized and made available to researchers beyond the SLU community.