Proposal: 0847481 Date: December 25, 2008 PI: Phillips Institution: University of Southern Mississippi
With the support of the Organic Dynamics Program in the Chemistry Division, Professor Paige Phillips of the Chemistry Department at the University of Southern Mississippi will work with a new class of "super molecules" - metallic nitride fullerenes - that are now available in gram quantities for transformative lab-scale research programs. The PI has participated in the development of MNF materials since their discovery in 1999, which has afforded her a unique expertise with regard to understanding their physical and chemical behavior. The proposed work represents a seminal effort to systematically characterize the fundamental photochemistry of MNF nanomaterials, their derivatives, thin-films, and polymer nanocomposites. This work is also expected to contribute significantly to the volume of knowledge concerning functionalization chemistries available for MNF adduct formation. Being able to predictably alter the physical and chemical properties of the MNF through surface modification is essential to realizing the potential of these materials in any commercial application. The PI plans to use an iterative approach between molecular modeling and experimentation, using empirical calculations to guide experimental design and choice of reagents. The rationale for the reactions chosen include the likelihood of high yields and multiple additions, enabling secondary functional group attachments, and the presence of supporting preliminary data. During this work, the PI will develop methodologies to incorporate MNFs into polymer matrices, generating exciting nanocomposite materials, and characterize their subsequent film properties.
Professor Phillips will pursue a project that is expected to produce a significant number of publications, presentations, and patents while offering underrepresented groups a unique and diverse educational experience. With the largest African American percentage in the United States, Mississippi has a high population of minorities from which to draw participants for the PI's recruiting and inclusion plans. The PI's teaching and research plan fosters discovery, opportunity, inspired teaching, and enthusiastic learning through integration of research and education. The PI promotes the inclusion of high school and lower-level undergraduate students, women, and minorities at early, impressionable academic ages, in part by routinely hiring students for summer undergraduate research positions in her labs. As the only female Chemistry professor in the department, the PI has the opportunity to mentor students who desire a female advisor. The PI has been the Graduate Recruiting Coordinator for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and in this capacity has developed strong professional ties to the larger Mississippi area scientific community. As a recent transplant from industry, the PI also maintains a large number of contacts in industry for internships and co-ops for excellent students. This CAREER program has a comprehensive research and educational integration plan, which will address all major aspects of the student's educational experience.