Dr. Robyn Goacher, right, will serve as the primary investigator for an undergraduate research grant that involves NU chemistry and biochemistry students.

Niagara University has received a $55,000 grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund for undergraduate research.

Dr. Robyn Goacher, assistant professor of analytical chemistry, is the primary investigator for the grant.

“The grant was awarded to study how wood polymer composites age,” explained Dr. Goacher. “These are increasingly common materials in home and commercial decking, in outdoor furniture, and in the automotive industry. So it’s important to improve the design of these materials by understanding how the chemistry of the materials changes due to weathering.”

The grant, spread out over the next two years, will allow NU chemistry and biochemistry students to perform fundamental research that evaluates the weathering of commercial WPC materials from home hardware centers and custom WPC materials from a collaborator at the University of Maine.

Chemical changes will be determined using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. A central component of the analysis will involve the use of time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) to generate chemical images of the materials pre- and post-weathering. NU students will receive hands-on training to use these instruments.

Niagara University maintains an active student chapter of the American Chemical Society on its campus. In August, a remarkable 10 of the institution’s undergraduates presented their research findings during the society’s 250th American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition in Boston. Grants such as this will further support outstanding undergraduate research by Niagara University students.

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