November 19, 2008

Exploring Alternative Energy Uses

Chemistry major David Goodwin ’10 writes about his research with Professor Tina Huang

Chemistry major David Goodwin ’10 (New Hope, Pa.) is performing research with Tina Huang , assistant professor of chemistry, on composite materials which may have alternative energy uses.

At Lafayette, I have gained considerable ability, technique, and understanding of the laboratory through the EXCEL Scholars program. As a B.S. chemistry major working toward a career in forensic chemistry, the skills and hands-on training I need have been developed through this program. The experience I have gained could never have been obtained just in a classroom, and will help further my chances of obtaining a job or an internship in the near future.

I have been working alongside Dr. Tina Huang on two research projects this past summer and continuing throughout this academic year. The first project involves the use of single-walled carbon nanotubes (cylindrical carbon molecules) in electronic devices. We have been working alongside Dr. Slava Rotkin from Lehigh University in developing effective polymer coated systems in order to improve the electronic properties of single-walled carbon nanotubes.

My specific contribution to the project involves determining and providing effective polymer coating systems in terms of concentration, solvent, charge, and drop properties. The goal of this type of research is to find ways to make smaller, more efficient electronic devices for everyday use in society. For example, the electronic properties of single-walled carbon nanotubes could be used to make faster microprocessors or more efficient solar energy devices.

Through this experience, I have learned to use the atomic force microscope to characterize the various polymer systems and their functions as well as how to run literature searches, make polymer solutions, and troubleshoot a variety of issues. The most valuable experience for me has been learning to work independently in the laboratory as well as learning to communicate with my professor in regards to theory, issues, and procedures. It has been very exciting to obtain results, develop a theory, intellectually discuss the theory with Dr. Huang, and then physically test the plausibility of the theory.

After a summer of EXCEL research, I decided to expand upon my laboratory experience by taking on a second project, this time involving my future career. In coordination with Dr. John Allison at the College of New Jersey, I have been working on a forensic chemistry research project as part of an independent study in the field. The research involves determining the chemical mechanism involved in a presumptive field test for cocaine. I have been utilizing UV-VIS spectroscopy and have gained considerable experience in terms of forensic techniques and their validation.

As a future forensic chemist, I hope to gain as much experience in the lab as possible before applying my skills to solving crimes through analytical techniques. EXCEL research has been an excellent starting point to achieve this goal and I look forward to learning more in the research lab throughout the rest of my time here at Lafayette.

  • Professor Tina Huang Receives Research Fellowship from American Chemical Society
  • Chemistry
  • EXCEL/Undergraduate Research

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