Research Project Description
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and the Fundamental Concept of Molecular Structure is a research project which is the first part of an effort by the St. Kate’s Chemistry Department to reframe the laboratory curriculum around four fundamental concepts: structure mass, energy and chance. It engages chemistry majors minoring in STEM in the idea of structure through lab experiences that illustrate the interrelatedness of concepts across their coursework. As a result of this research project, students gain hands-on experience with the analytical techniques offered by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and connect the relevance of NMR to practical problems.
This project is funded by the National Science Foundation and St. Catherine University donors.
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and the Fundamental Concept of Molecular Structure
Simply ask Hannah Kaup about her research experience with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and her face instantly lights up.
During the summer of 2010, Kaup teamed with Daron Janzen, associate professor of chemistry, on a collaborative research project implementing NMR into the chemistry department’s coursework and labs. NMR is the only analytical technique that enables research to determine the chemical structure of a molecule. It is commonly used during the synthesis of a molecule. The aim of the Kaup’s work was to relate the knowledge of the NMR spectroscopy students gain from course work and apply it to practical problems within chemistry while using the NMR spectrometer – a research-grade instrument.
Having first-hand access working with the spectrometer was one aspect that initially attracted Kaup to the project. “It’s really rare for an undergraduate to have that much experience with NMR,” she says. “Most students are usually only introduced to the technique in a textbook. Through this experience I wanted to become well-versed in NMR and be exposed to different techniques you wouldn’t be exposed to unless you were in a graduate program using NMR.”
Kaup, a recent St. Kate’s graduate, says her knowledge of NMR makes her stand out in the job market. “It’s been key in interviews because I have NMR listed on my resume. [Employers] ask me about it right away because it’s rare experience to have. They seem impressed.”
She also emphasizes that the valuable skills students develop in collaborative research will help prepare them for working in the professional world , particularly in science-related fields. “[Employers] want to know you can be trusted using instruments and you are knowledgeable, competent and can work independently when in the lab.”
A distinct benefit of participating in collaborative research is the relationship developed between student and faculty. Kaup says, “The bond and experience created when working with the professor is priceless.”
According to Kaup, throughout the time the two worked together on the project, Janzen’s enthusiasm was contagious. “He can’t help but get you excited,” she says. “He’s not afraid to talk about chemistry to people that aren’t chemists. That’s one of his great qualities. He loves what he does and he loves to share what he does.”
While the prospect of conducting research with a professor might intimate some students, Kaup advises St. Kate’s students that the experience is meant to be educational. “Professors working with undergraduate students on research know you’re not an expert in this field. The point is to give you the experience of research,” she says. “Contributing to a research project helps give you a new-found sense of confidence and independence.