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Chemistry department awarded grant

Feb 09, 2009

SEARCY, Ark.— The Harding University Department of Chemistry will be purchasing a mass selective detector thanks to an instrumentation award by the Arkansas INBRE (Idea Networks of Biochemical Research Excellence). 

The total cost of the instrument is $84,000.  Arkansas INBRE provided $50,000 of this amount. The College of Pharmacy and departments of chemistry and biology are providing the remainder.  The purchase of this instrument represents the single largest amount spent for the purchase of a science instrument by Harding.

The Arkansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence is funded by a grant from the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health.  It was established to broaden the geographic distribution of NIH funding for biomedical and behavioral research.

Dr. Edmond Wilson, professor of chemistry and the principal investigator for the project, said, "We are really excited about using this valuable science instrument to enhance research and educational opportunities for our students at Harding.  I am truly thankful for the excellent rapport between the departments of chemistry and biology and the College of Pharmacy.  We all wanted the instrument, but none of us had the resources to purchase it by ourselves.  We are grateful to Arkansas INBRE for providing the majority of the funds."

Dr. Helen Benes, program coordinator for the Arkansas INBRE, said, "We're very excited that Harding is getting an instrument that will involve so many faculty members and students in research. We chose Dr. Wilson's proposal because it was very convincing. There were quite a few proposals submitted, so Harding University should be honored that theirs was selected."

"The mass spectrometer detector represents state of the art instrumentation for analysis of medicinal and biochemical substances," said Dr. Bill Yates, chairman of the college of pharmacy. Faculty in the college will use the instrument in some of their research. 

Besides teaching students in chemistry the principles and proper operation of the mass spectrometer, Dr. Dennis Province, associate professor of chemistry, plans to use it to find out more about the production and regulation of fat in the body. 

In the biology department, Ms. Jo Goy will use the instrument to involve undergraduate researchers in research that seeks to learn more about cell death in human breast tumors.  Her colleague, Dr. Nathan Mills, will be able learn more about how living cells respond when deprived of oxygen.

Dr. Wilson will use the mass spectrometer to research how humans utilize the nutritional trace element, chromium.  "Chromium is an amazing nutrient," says Wilson. "It is of fundamental importance in body chemistry because it works with insulin to regulate levels of glucose and fat in the blood. However, no one has been able to determine the mechanism for this important substance.  With this instrument, we hope to be able to examine key molecules in living cells that react with and utilize chromium."

The goals of the Arkansas INBRE are to expand and strengthen the biomedical research infrastructure in Arkansas.  They help undergraduate institutions obtain independent funding for their biomedical research projects. They also provide mentored research opportunities for faculty and undergraduate students statewide.

Harding had a record enrollment this year of more than 6,500 students from 48 states and 51 foreign countries. It is the largest private university in Arkansas and attracts more National Merit Scholars than any other private university in the state. Harding also maintains campuses in Australia, Chile, England, France/Switzerland, Greece, Italy and Zambia.

Story: Searcy Radio Group