Millikin Chemistry Professor receives grant from American Chemical Society

Millikin Chemistry Professor receives grant from American Chemical Society

Story by Dane Lisser

Dr. Timothy Guasco, assistant professor of chemistry at Millikin University, received a $55,000 grant from the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund to research how carbon dioxide (CO2) can be converted for purposes of storage, alternative fuels, or chemical feedstock by complexes with transition metals.

In the proposed research, Dr. Guasco along with selected Millikin students will study negatively charged clusters, complexes of transition metals and carbon dioxide, with the goal to gain fundamental insight into the interaction of CO2 reduction catalysts.

“The grant is called an Undergraduate New Investigator Award — an award for faculty at universities that primarily have undergraduate students,” Dr. Guasco said. “We will research the conversion of carbon dioxide to something that you can store.”

Most of the research will be conducted at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., during the summer, while some of the research will be conducted at Millikin. Dr. Guasco and the Millikin students will have access to a scientific instrument at Washington University that will help with their research.

“We are going to look at things on the molecular level,” Dr. Guasco said. “We will look at one or two nickel atoms and a few CO2 molecules in what’s called a cluster.”

As many as two Millikin students will take part in the research for the next three summers. Jacob Hamilton, a sophomore chemistry major and Presidential Scholar from Swansea, Ill., and Blaine Traylor, a first-year chemistry major from Decatur, Ill., will conduct research this summer.

Dr. Guasco noted, “One of the hallmarks of a Millikin education is Performance Learning. Students performing research is a great example of Performance Learning, and this project gives the students a chance to see what it’s like to do research every day. This also gives them a chance to interact with equipment that is sort of beyond our scope and means.”

Part of the funds from the grant will be used to acquire a computer program for computational chemistry called Gaussian 09. The program will be used not just for the project, but throughout the Chemistry curriculum at Millikin University. The Gaussian 09 program allows students to “visualize” atoms and molecules.

Dr. Timothy Guasco’s research efforts broadly focus on problems that are atmospheric and environmental in nature. Currently, he has two separate projects: studying the molecular-interactions which control the catalytic conversion of carbon dioxide, and monitoring the chemical processing of atmospheric aerosols using optical tweezers.

Dr. Guasco joined the Millikin faculty in 2013. He received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Puget Sound in 2006, his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Yale University in 2011 and was a member of the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE) as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, San Diego from 2011–2013. He has published 19 peer-reviewed articles in journals including Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of the American Chemical Society, and The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

Originally publish on Millikin News on February 3, 2017.

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