BOONE, N.C. — Dr. Jefferson Bates, associate professor in Appalachian State University's Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences, is the co-recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) Award. Between August 2023 and July 2026, Bates and Dr. Gary Guillet, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at Furman University, will receive $388,051 to support work on their project, titled "Extended Metal Atom Chain Complexes of Fe and Co Supported by a C3 Symmetric, Scaffolded Ligand Platform." Bates' lab will receive $86,554 of the total amount.
NSF RUI awards provide funding for research by faculty members at predominantly undergraduate institutions (PUI), such as App State. The awards support PUI faculty in research that engages them in their professional field, builds capacity for research at their home institution and supports the integration of research and undergraduate education.
For the project, Guillet and Bates will study new chemical compounds containing 1-dimensional chains of three metal atoms, such as iron and cobalt, where the metal atoms form bonds with each other due to their close spatial proximity. This study will produce new molecules that control the environment around the chain of metal atoms therefore influencing the metal-metal interactions. These compounds will shed light on how metal atoms interact with each other and if the properties of the individual metals, such as their magnetism, can be intentionally combined. To accomplish these goals, Guillet will design and synthesize a series of new compounds supported with computational modeling performed by Bates.
“Functional devices made from molecular magnets containing metallic elements would revolutionize computer storage technology, but we are far away from this goal since we still do not fully understand the phenomena of metal-metal bonding, " explained Bates. "By studying these new complexes with theoretical methods, we can identify key characteristics of metal-metal bonds that maximize their magnetism, which will then inform the design of improved single-molecule magnets.”
In line with the award's objectives, undergraduate student researchers will play an important role in Bates' project. Jack McKeon, a senior chemistry major from Apex, is one student who will use computers to predict the properties of new compounds and learn how to compare theoretical results with the experimental measurements made by Guillet’s group. The students' work on the project will help prepare them for a future career in chemistry by providing them with training and experience in using digital resources, such as the Python programming language, to tackle chemical problems.
About Dr. Jefferson Bates
Bates earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the College of William & Mary, where he first became interested in theoretical chemistry and its applications in quantum chemistry. He went on to earn master's and doctoral degrees in physical chemistry with a concentration in chemical and material physics from the University of California Irvine. Following the completion of his doctorate, Bates conducted postdoctoral research at Northwestern University and Temple University before joining App State's Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences in 2017. At App State, Bates teaches general and physical chemistry courses and has served as faculty mentor to the American Chemical Society sponsored Chemistry Club since 2018.
About the A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
The A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences offers a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry, a Bachelor of Science in chemistry with eight different concentrations and an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science degree in fermentation sciences. The department’s programs prepare students to attend graduate and professional schools, as well as for employment in the pharmaceutical and fermentation industries and other business sectors. Learn more at https://dcfs.appstate.edu.
By Lauren Andersen
August 11, 2023