Sophisticated Equipment Puts Peeples Hall ‘Over the Top’
May 9, 2014
Dr. Randall Griffus, Dean of the School of Science, Technology, and Mathematics at Dalton State College, stands at the rail of the upper level of Peeples Hall and makes a visual sweep of the new biology and chemistry building charged to his care.
“The building is spectacular and puts us on a level playing field with any college or university in Georgia,” he says. “But the equipment inside puts us over the top.”
According to Griffus, undergraduate students at Dalton State will have access to sophisticated instruments and equipment typically used only by graduate students or professional scientists. “The value of the educational experience we offer our biology and chemistry students has just gone through the roof,” he said.
Faith Stokes, a 2014 graduate of Dalton State, marvels at the opportunities that await future science majors of her alma mater. “Being a good scientist, I did my research, and I could not find another program anywhere to parallel the program at Dalton State,” she said. Stokes was an early participant in Dalton State’s undergraduate research program and recently exhibited her research project on the antibacterial properties of snake venom at the Center for Undergraduate Research’s prestigious “Posters on the Hill” event in Washington, DC.
“Dalton State students will leave here with skills and experience on their résumés that graduate students at many of the largest schools in the United States won’t have,” she said.
The public is invited to come see Peeples Hall at an Open House Sunday, May 18, from 2-4 pm and also at a special ceremony to dedicate the John Willis Mashburn Chemistry Labs on Wednesday, May 21, at 10 am. A special invitation is extended to all future scientists as well as those interested in seeing how Dalton State’s future chemists and biologists are being educated.
Among the resources available to Dalton State students are a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer which uses the same principles as medical MRI to examine hydrogen and carbon atoms in chemicals. According to Dr. Dean Turner, Associate Professor of Chemistry, the NMR is “the most powerful tool that chemists have for determining the structure of chemicals and is essential for doing chemical synthesis.” The sophisticated instrument will be used in organic and advanced inorganic chemistry labs.
A research grade Fourier transform infrared spectrometer donated two years ago by Shaw Industries was mothballed until finding a home in Peeples Hall. The FTIR will be used to study wavelengths in the infrared spectrum in advanced inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, and perhaps other labs.
A gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer analyzes complex mixtures by separating them in the gas phase. It is coupled with a headspace sampler which allows speedy analysis without elaborate, time-consuming pretreatment. They will be used in many upper level lab courses, Turner said, but most notably in Quantitative Analysis, Instrumental Analysis, and Environmental Chemistry.
A high performance liquid chromatograph will be used to separate mixtures in the liquid phase, as the GCMS does in the gas phase, he said. In addition to chemistry labs, the HPLC will also find use in biochemistry and biology labs as well.
Dr. James Adams, Professor of Biology, anticipates using the school’s new scanning electron microscope to analyze microstructures of Tiger Moths to learn more about how they make sounds that advertise to bats that they are bad tasting. Dr. Gene Mesco, Associate Professor of Biology, plans to use the SEM with developmental biology students to investigate patterns of development in insect embryos while Dr. Charles Fink, Assistant Professor of Biology, looks forward to using the new automated fluorescence microscope system which allows for fluorescent imaging. Fluorescence, he said, “has many uses in biological research, including tagging cellular structures, following real-time dynamics of signaling molecules, and using specially tailored probes to assay key cellular events.”
Much of the new instrumentation was made possible through gifts from the John Willis Mashburn Charitable Trust. Other new equipment was purchased with state funds and donated by Shaw Industries.
The new equipment will be used to teach lab classes and also in student research. “We now have enough lab space and all of the major types of chemical instrumentation,” said Dr. Turner. “The main purpose for doing science research at Dalton State is to give our students the invaluable experience of pursuing a months-long project to make new discoveries and create new knowledge.
“In all their other lab classes, students do experiments that are known to work and they try to ‘get the right answer,’” he said. “In research, the answers are unknown and they often have to solve problems to get the experiments to work. This kind of capstone experience is unlike anything they have done before. It draws on all that they have learned in all of their classes and gives them new problem-solving skills together with the confidence that they can do it.”