Marshall scientist and assistant
professor of chemistry Derrick Kolling is doing research on photosynthesis and
other processes created by plant life.
Kolling recently received a grant of
almost $340,000 from the National Science Foundation which will fund high-end
laboratory equipment to be used by researchers and students in biochemistry and
physics. The device is called an electron paramagnetic resonance spectrometer
and will be housed in Kolling’s lab in the Science Building.
“What it allows us to do is, we’re
interested in looking at photosynthesis on a molecular level, down to the
individual atoms and how it works and there are particular chemical
intermediates that can be determined with this instrument, so we can use it for
looking at various intermediate stages in in these photosynthetic processes,”
What this means or why it’s important to
closer examine the photosynthetic process is simple, according to Kolling.
“It’s how we can get energy from light
using water as a fuel, so if we can see exactly how that’s working we can mimic
it, we can try to build a system that’s like that, but easier to control and
easier to upscale so we could have, think of having large tanks of this
particular material to convert water into maybe hydrogen would be one example,”
Kolling along with colleagues at
Marshall and the University of Charleston and current students will use the new
equipment to enhance their ongoing research projects to improve alternative
“Biofuels is really the big thing, the
idea would be you have a jug of water and you put compounds in the water and
shine light on it, but sun would shine on it and the water would oxidize and
form hydrogen and oxygen, but what you could end up having something that
produces hydrogen and you could use that for a potential fuel and that’s the
idea there,” Kolling said.
The electron paramagnetic resonance
spectrometer will also be used by other scientists for projects like detecting
environmental toxins and chemical and biological threats, designing more
efficient semiconductors and safer radioactive waste disposal systems, and
furthering medical understandings of the disease atherosclerosis or “hardening
of the arteries.”
Somerville is dean of Marshall’s
College of Science. He said receiving the NSF grant
for the new piece of equipment is important for the college.
collaborative, this new equipment will bring in folks from different department
and different colleges; also it gives us another notch up in terms of
respectability with the NSF. Anytime we get National Science Foundation funding
it means we’re competing at the highest level across the country and it shows
we’ve got the capability and the personnel here that can do that type of work,”
said it’s exciting to see this opportunity happen.
know we’re science geeks and we love it for the basic fact that we can look
into things that nobody has seen before and nobody know and we can kind of peel
back new layers of basic science and basic information, so for us it’s very
fulfilling even if there’s not a specific application outside these doors,”
Kolling said research involving the instrument has already begun even before
the piece has arrived.
actually going to start doing preliminary work trying to trap some of these
photosynthetic systems so we hit them with light and freeze them very rapidly and
then we’ll try to get these samples ready so when the instrument comes in we
can try to measure them,” Kolling said.
instrument is expected in 5-8 months.