No Vacation for Chemistry Researchers

September 13, 2017

Three women wearing blue lab coats, goggles, and purple gloves are in the lab conducting experiments.This summer, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Christina Bauer worked closely with a small group of students researching nanomaterials and their ability to organize molecules in different shapes and environments. The group of four consisted of Bauer, Stephanie Jackson ’19, Camryn Purdom ’18, and a student from La Serna High School. 

The hands-on research consisted of working with Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs), which are porous, geometric structures made of metals that are linked by organic molecules. The MOFs are used as “storage units” to hold certain molecules in predefined positions and open pores that can be filled with other molecules. Working in a lab on the third floor of the Science & Learning Center, Bauer’s group studied how to make frameworks that have a polymer threaded through them. This polymer is held in position as the chain and the MOFs behave as the charms holding the chain straight, which is necessary for long-range ion transport. It is hoped that these will be useful for the creation of more economically viable fuel cells. This procedure can be used to power cars and eliminate the fumes emitted into the environment. 

The second part of their research involved working on altering the actual shape of the MOF itself once it has been created, which will allow them to be used for a variety of purposes. “We seem to have had a lot of success with that and all the data so far shows that this has worked,” said Bauer of the experiment.

The dynamic of the group created a learning environment for everyone. While Purdom and Jackson placed in practice what they learned in their chemistry courses, they were also able to learn by teaching - explaining each step of the process to their younger research team member. The group’s research will be archived and built upon by future Whittier students, creating more opportunities for advancement in the field of chemistry.