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Professor Garners Grant to Study Environment in Neighborhoods Surrounding Mercer

February 4, 2013

MACON – Mercer University’s Dr. Jennifer Look, assistant professor of chemistry, has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation to study the environment in the neighborhoods around Mercer’s Macon campus. As part of the grant, Mercer will match the funding. The $100,000 project will include the purchase of instrumentation, funding for student research and the presentation of that research to the community.

“This project is exciting because it will get students out into the community to communicate about what they are learning,” Dr. Look said. “Students will use cutting edge equipment to gather data, analyze their results and then present the findings to local audiences of non-scientists. We’ll distinguish the strengths of Macon’s local environment, and also identify areas of concern that warrant further study or require clean-up. We’ll also be surveying residents about their attitudes towards Macon’s environment and how science impacts their lives. Hopefully over the two year grant period, we’ll see that people are better educated about the chemicals that we constantly interact with.”

The grant, titled “Neighborhood Chemistry: Exploring Our Surroundings Through Analytical Techniques,” will involve undergraduate students analyzing soil, air and water samples from the neighborhood. As part of the grant, Dr. Look has purchased a handheld X-ray fluorimeter, which provides information about the elements that comprise a sample. It, along with several other pieces of lab equipment, will be used in classrooms and outreach activities to analyze garden soil, paint and items such as jewelry and cell phones, to promote awareness of the chemicals all around us, Dr. Look.

The student researchers will plan community events in which to announce findings and help explain their meaning. The project has already launched its website: http://bit.ly/neighborchem. The Dreyfus Foundation made the grant under the Special Grant Program in the Chemical Sciences, which funds innovative projects that advance the understanding of science.

“It doesn’t sponsor pure research, but rather promotes efforts to increase public awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the chemical sciences,” Dr. Look said. “We think it is a great addition to our chemistry research program.”

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,300 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah – and four regional academic centers across the state. The Mercer Health Sciences Center launched July 1, 2012, and includes the University’s medical, nursing and pharmacy schools and will add a fourth college – the College of Health Professions – on July 1, 2013. Mercer is affiliated with four teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The University also has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. www.mercer.edu

Mark Vanderhoek
(478) 301-4037
vanderhoek_m@mercer.edu