St. Bonaventure University

Instrumentation suite offers students a competitive edge

Bona students are gaining hands-on, employable skills while conducting high-quality research—all thanks to a modern instrumentation lab.

Students in the instrumentation suite

Creating safe cosmetics is on Madeleine Wedvik’s to-do list after graduation. For Joshua Little, pharmaceuticals is his targeted niche spot.

Today each of these senior chemistry majors at St. Bonaventure University has a strong start toward achieving their goal thanks to Bona’s full suite of modern lab instrumentation.

Located in 315 De La Roche Hall, the instrumentation suite houses 12 pieces of research and teaching equipment, eight of which are newly purchased through a combination of grants, donor generosity and a partnership with Shimadzu Scientific Instruments. 

Estimated total cost is upwards of a million dollars. But the possibilities through hands-on, employable skills learned with the equipment is priceless. 

The instruments are utilized by students in all the sciences: physics, chemistry, and biology.

Dr. Scott Simpson, assistant professor of chemistry and a recipient of a National Science Foundation grant to identify pollutants in the environment, oversees use of the instruments by students in general chemistry and upper level chemistry sequences.

“The suite enables us to teach students practical skills on basic forms of instrumentation that are widely applied in both academia and industry,” Simpson said. “This puts them ahead of students from larger schools that don’t offer that hands-on use.”

It also enables them to do some pretty awesome research, Simpson added.

Wedvik, a chemistry major from Westerly, Rhode Island, had the opportunity to author an article with Simpson, along with Dr. Kellie Gast, assistant professor of chemistry, and Patrick Schneider, visiting lecturer of chemistry, that was published in the open-access journal Chemistry Teacher International.

“It’s my proudest academic achievement,” said Wedvik.

Titled "Quantum Chemical Exercise Linking Quantum Mechanics to General Chemistry Topics," the article details an experiment intended to help general chemistry students learn concepts of quantum chemistry by using online theoretical models.

Wedvik said working on research for the article helped her learn how to deal with failure.

“I would enter 64 different molecules in the morning, which takes a lot of time, and all would fail because of issues with application,” she said. “I had to learn to be comfortable with things not working out.”

Joshua Little, a chemistry and Spanish double major from Clarence, New York, credits his time in the instrumentation suite for giving him a competitive edge.

“Being able as an undergraduate to use a lot of the instrumentation for research or for class is an experience that I’m definitely very thankful for,” Little said. “Typically I wouldn’t get to do that unless I was a grad student or thoroughly trained for multiple weeks. It’s been a great opportunity for me.”

This fall he will enter the University of Maryland’s Ph.D. program in chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Among the newest pieces of equipment in the suite is a UV-visible spectrophotometer, which helps students identify molecules and determine the amount of chemicals in solutions. Wedvik used it to research makeup remover efficiencies.

“I’m really interested in advancing the clean beauty standard and creating makeup that isn’t harmful,” she said.

Another piece of equipment is a liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. It is a staple instrument in clinical and forensic labs as well as a modern tool for biochemical research and protein identification. Simpson will utilize it in his research to identify emerging poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (which was the focus of the 2019 film “Dark Waters”) and pesticides on fruits.

“These instruments completely enable high-quality research to be conducted here,” Simpson said.

For Little, whose long-range career focus is in the production of life-saving pharmaceuticals on a large scale, the instrumentation suite at Bona’s has made all the difference.

“Being at Bonaventure gives students the experience that a lot of larger state schools don’t normally offer undergraduate students, whether it be the one-on-one interactions with the professors or the instrumentation experience.” he said. “This sets us up for life once we’re outside of school. The possibilities are almost endless for us.”

Most recent instrumentation added to the suite:

2 FT-IR spectrometers
UV-Vis spectrophotometer
Atomic Absorption Spectrometer
GCMS (tandem Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometer)
LCMS (tandem Liquid Chromatography – Mass Spectrometer)
Ion Chromatogram
New Analytical Balances

By Susan Anderson
May 2020