Professor’s Spectroscopy Research Wins NSF Support

For more information, contact Barb Steadman - 843.857.4199

HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Oct. 30, 2012 – Assistant Professor of Chemistry Gordon Brown has been awarded a three-year, $143,000 grant by the National Science Foundation to conduct fundamental research on molecular interactions using low-frequency microwave spectroscopy.

Brown’s innovative project creates new opportunities for students to investigate the precise structures that impact the ways that organic molecules bind to each other.  It also involves them in a project to develop a new low-frequency microwave instrument to facilitate the research.

Ultimately, implications of the research could be applied to medical investigations and to finding better ways to capture and store carbon dioxide so that it does not contribute to greenhouse gases.

“In order to study larger biologically and environmentally important molecular systems, it is useful to be able to study them at frequencies that are lower than is feasible with currently available instruments,” Brown said.  “No one sells microwave spectrometers of the type we need, so we are building our own.”

Undergraduate research is an important aspect of the Coker experience, according to Associate Professor of Biology Joe Flaherty, who was recently appointed as the college’s first director of undergraduate research.

“As a means to learning opportunities beyond the classroom setting, undergraduate research has been demonstrated to help students achieve greater gains in personal initiative, problem solving and communication skills in addition to stronger enrollment in graduate studies and increased employment in major-related fields,” Flaherty said.

The college’s emphasis on faculty-mentored undergraduate research seems to be making a difference.  This year, in fact, Coker’s national ranking in Washington Monthly jumped 23 spots, from No. 96 to No. 73, in large part because of the success Coker’s students are having in graduate programs.  Specifically, Coker’s ranking in the “Bachelor’s to Ph.D.” category jumped 48 points in this year’s report.

“Undergraduate research provides significant one-on-one faculty-student mentoring while students learn valuable skills relevant to graduate and professional studies and to a career,” Flaherty added.  “Clearly, the opportunity to conduct undergraduate research makes student résumés more attractive to graduate schools and prospective employers and gives faculty-mentors the ability to write much more detailed letters of recommendation.”

Brown’s research is being funded through the Chemical Measurement and Imaging program, within the chemistry division of the National Science Foundation, which supports research that focuses on chemically relevant measurement science and imaging, targeting both improved understanding of new and existing methods and development of innovative approaches and instruments.

For more information about Coker College, visit or call 843-383-8000.




Coker College readies undergraduates for personal and professional success through a distinctive four-year program that emphasizes a practical application of the liberal arts as well as hands-on and discussion-based learning within and beyond the classroom. Coker is ranked among the “Best Colleges” in the South by U.S. News & World Report as well as The Princeton Review. Located in Hartsville, S.C., Coker is within two hours of the cultural, financial and recreational resources of Charlotte, Columbia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach.


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