With this award from the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program, Professor Christopher Daley from University of San Diego and colleagues Mitchell Malachowski and Robert Dutnall will acquire an X-ray diffractometer. The award will enhance research training and education at all levels, especially in areas such as (a) studies of metal organic frameworks (MOFs) using molybdenum and copper compounds, (b) protein screening, (c) synthetic analogues of enzymes, and (d) chiral catalysts.

An X-ray diffractometer allows accurate and precise measurements of the full three dimensional structure of a molecule, including bond distances and angles, and provides accurate information about the spatial arrangement of a molecule relative to neighboring molecules. The studies described here will impact a number of areas, including organic and inorganic chemistry, materials chemistry and biochemistry. This instrument will be an integral part of teaching and research at the University of San Diego as well as neighboring colleges such as Point Loma Nazarene University, California State San Marcos and Southwestern Community College.

Project Report

This award allowed for the purchase of a dual source X-ray diffractometer to support research and education goals at the University of San Diego (USD) in a wide array of chemistry and biochemistry fields. The instrument allows for the collection of data on compounds that is used for the determination of the exact structure of the compound (i.e. how atoms, etc. are bonded together). It specifically addressed the absence of X-ray diffraction (XRD) techniques at USD; techniques that are severely underrepresented at the undergraduate research and teaching level, despite their extreme importance in modern cutting-edge science. Key outcomes from this grant include the incorporation of meaningful XRD experiments in the undergraduate curriculum at USD in high impact areas (e.g. materials science and protein structure science) that are currently underserved. Currently, XRD has been incorporated into four upper division courses (three laboratory-based course and one special topic course on protein structure determination) either for powder or single crystal analysis. This breadth of courses that use XRD ensures that all current chemistry and biochemistry majors will be exposed to XRD at least once in their academic curriculum. Furthermore, the curricular impact of the XRD instrument in biophysical chemistry has been presented as a poster at the national meeting of the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Boston (April 2013). The grant has also enhanced the research infrastructure for researchers at USD and favorably impacted their research. In the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, 6 of the 12 fulltime faculty members have already used the instrument in their research efforts, with 2 others intending to use it within the next year (new hires in 09/2014). To date a number of publications with undergraduate co-authors and several conference presentations, including regional and national meetings, have stemmed, in some part, from data collected on the XRD instrument. It is also anticipated that another 4-5 research papers, based on data collected on this instrument, will be published within the next year (2015). As was anticipated, one broader impact of the acquired XRD instrument is emerging through shared usage of the instrument with regional institutions, specifically undergraduate institutions (e.g. Point Loma Nazarene University). Such collaborations will allow faculty at these institutions to use XRD analyses in a hands-on manner, thus improving the training of their students and enhancing their research capabilities.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Chemistry (CHE)
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Carlos A. Murillo
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University of San Diego
San Diego
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