Doug Juers, assistant professor of physics at Whitman College, has received a grant for $464,934 from the National Science Foundation to purchase an X-ray diffraction instrument for research and course work.

Doug Juers Doug Juers

The instrument will be shared by the physics, chemistry, biology and geology departments, and the biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology program. It will enhance interdisciplinary faculty-student research, undergraduate research training and classroom instruction.

“At Whitman… faculty-student collaborative research is an integral part of the curriculum and a key required aspect of the biology, chemistry and BBMB major programs,” Juers wrote in his grant proposal. “The X-ray crystallography equipment will make possible entirely new types of on-campus undergraduate interdisciplinary research. Also, it will allow development of teaching laboratories in X-ray diffraction, X-ray crystallography and structural biology, which will impact large numbers of students in at least nine different courses in four different departments.”

Several science faculty contributed research ideas, course summaries and other supporting material to Juers’ grant proposal. They include Jim Russo, Allison Calhoun, Tim Machonkin and Marion Götz in chemistry, Dan Vernon and Paul Yancey in biology, Kirsten Nicolaysen in geology and Kurt Hoffman in physics.

The diffraction instrument features state-of-the-art sealed-tube X-ray optics, a two-dimensional CCD detector and cryogenic cooling capability. It is “a good option” for a small institution such as Whitman, Juers said, because a sealed-tube X-ray source “has dramatically reduced maintenance requirements in comparison to the rotating anode typically used to produce high intensity X-rays.”

The instrument will support faculty research in areas including bioremediation of pollutants, cryogenic cooling methods in structural biology and “soil horizons” in the wine-growing areas of Walla Walla Valley. Research teams from other undergraduate institutions in the Northwest will also use the instrument for various projects.

The grant, awarded through the NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation Program, is the result of a two-year effort that included two application rounds with the foundation, Juers said.

Juers came to Whitman in January 2004 after completing a Ph.D. in physics and postdoctoral studies at the University of Oregon. He received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Cornell University and taught physics, chemistry and math at Carrabassett Valley Academy, a small boarding school in Maine.

Keith Raether
Office of Communications, Whitman College