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Press Release

Lauren Ward

Amy Pavlak

For immediate release:
September 19, 2005

Carnegie Mellon University and CUNY's Lehman College Receive $350,000 From the USDA To Enhance Minority Students' Laboratory Skills

PITTSBURGH—The Department of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University and Lehman College, an independent college of the City University of New York (CUNY), have received $350,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a cooperative program to enhance minority students' laboratory skills and expand the science curriculum for CUNY undergraduates. This competitive grants program is intended to promote and strengthen the ability of Hispanic-serving institutions to carry out higher education programs in the food and agricultural sciences, according to the USDA.

Part of the grant will leverage Carnegie Mellon's expertise in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and mass spectrometry to assist Lehman in upgrading its NMR facility and to introduce a virtual mass spectrometry lab to the curriculum. Through collaboration between the departments of Chemistry and Biological Sciences, the grant also will allow the two institutions to create a three-year summer internship program for CUNY undergraduate students, especially those students from groups currently underrepresented in the sciences.

"This project will enhance Lehman undergraduates' skills in biology and chemistry by strengthening Lehman's curriculum and providing research experiences for Lehman students at Carnegie Mellon," said Edward Kennelly, associate professor and chair of biological sciences at Lehman College and principal investigator of the grant. "Most of the students at Lehman are minority group members. Introducing them to NMR research will enhance their competitiveness when they apply for graduate schools or jobs in research."

Beginning in May 2006, two undergraduate students from Lehman College will spend 10 weeks at Carnegie Mellon to conduct intensive, mentored research projects with faculty in the departments of Chemistry and Biological Sciences. They will participate in the Department of Biological Sciences' Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) with support from the USDA. In addition to conducting their own high-quality research projects, USDA-supported students will attend faculty research talks, student-led discussions of articles from the scientific literature, and presentations on career options and scientific ethics. At the end of the three-year summer internship program, one CUNY student can receive a $50,000 USDA fellowship to attend graduate school in chemistry or biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon.

The summer program at Carnegie Mellon will be supervised by Roberto Gil, research scientist, director of the Department of Chemistry's NMR Facility and co-PI of the grant award; Colin Horwitz, a research professor in the Department of Chemistry and co-PI of the grant award; and Emily Stark, coordinator of the SURP.

The USDA funding also will allow both institutions to upgrade their NMR facilities. Carnegie Mellon will purchase a microprobe to vastly improve the sensitivity of their NMR instrument and permit analysis with microgram levels of a compound under study.

"Samples at microgram levels are difficult to characterize even by the current inversed detection probe at Carnegie Mellon. This new probe will allow us to analyze samples that are present in nature at very low concentrations," said Gil. "For example, the new probe is so sensitive that it can obtain an NMR spectrum of 20 micrograms of ibuprofen in a matter of seconds."

In 2004, Lehman College installed its first high field NMR spectrometer, and, with USDA support, the college will hire a dedicated technician to assist with the operation and maintenance of its NMR facility. The technician will be responsible for maintaining the instrument, working with Lehman faculty to incorporate NMR experiments in appropriate courses and helping Lehman students and faculty run the instrument. Carnegie Mellon also will offer workshops for Lehman faculty and students on the basic and advanced operation of its NMR instrument.

Mark Bier, director of the Carnegie Mellon Chemistry Department's Center for Molecular Analysis, also will travel to three CUNY institutions—Lehman, Hunter and City Colleges—to conduct workshops on using the Virtual Mass Spectrometry Laboratory (VMSL). An interactive Internet educational tool he co-developed with the University of Pittsburgh, the VMSL allows schools that cannot afford mass spectrometers—which can cost upwards of $1 million—to add mass spectrometry experiments to their curriculum. See

For more information about Carnegie Mellon's NMR facility, please visit:

For more information about the SURP, please visit:


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