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“It’s hard to get this kind of real-world research experience as an undergraduate,” Ferguson said. “This was an amazing experience.”
Ferguson spent three weeks at the lab alongside AU Assistant Professor of Chemistry Geoffrey Bowers, who was conducting his own research in solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Ferguson is the first undergraduate student he has taken with him to PNNL.
“I’ve always wanted to bring an undergrad student, and she’s the first to get far enough into the program to go and be able to contribute,” Bowers said. “It’s a pretty high-pressure environment, and I can’t spend a lot of time teaching because every second that we’re out there, the instruments have to be generating data that’s publishable.”
Bowers and Ferguson reportedly worked extensively with PNNL’s cutting-edge NMR spectrometers and microbeam X-ray diffraction instrument. Although AU has a state-of-the-art X-ray diffraction laboratory, it does not currently include either of these instruments, which allowed Bowers and Ferguson to process extremely small sample volumes. Bowers spent most of his time on the NMR spectrometer, so Brennan was trained to run the microbeam X-ray diffraction instrument by herself, processing all of the samples and collecting data.
Ferguson was also trained to operate the helium ion microscope, one of only six such instruments in the country and fewer than 20 globally.
For more information, visit www.alfred.edu.