Discover Your Island

$681K Grant Provides Island University with New Scientific Research Tool

September 23, 2016

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Researchers in the College of Science and Engineering (COSE) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi recently received $681,415 from a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant. The grant will be used to purchase a new piece of equipment which will help conduct research projects in the environmental, geochemical and marine science disciplines.

“This award adds new capabilities to our strong research portfolio,” said Dr. Frank Pezold, Dean of the COSE. “This new piece of equipment will enhance the state-of-the-art learning environment provided to our undergraduate and graduate students here at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.”

The funding will be used to purchase a high accuracy/high resolution Orbitrap Hybrid Mass Spectrometry system which will be equipped with an Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatogram. The new mass spectrometer will be the crowning jewel to what the COSE will call their “Analytical Core Facility Lab.” The Analytical Core Facility Lab will allow Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to conduct complex research projects, such as identifying and quantifying the small molecules of aquatic species under different environmental conditions, chemical structures of natural organic matter, pollutants or understanding petroleum’s molecular structure, completely in-house and without having the expense of sending samples to a larger lab.

“To the best of my knowledge there are no other universities in Texas that are using this type of equipment for geochemistry and environmental research,” explained Dr. Hussain Abdulla, Assistant Professor of Chemistry in the COSE. “We are lucky to be situated in such a unique environment where we have access to all types of ecosystems and can use that to our advantage when conducting research.” 

It has been the vision of several COSE researchers, like Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Eugene Billiot, to build a complete lab on campus and offer services to other universities, as well as the general public, on a fee-for-service basis. The addition of this state-of-the-art piece of equipment will also allow 12 other Island University researchers to separate and identify molecular compounds that are too small to see with the human eye.

To receive this grant, Abdulla and his colleagues had to show that such a costly piece of equipment would enhance research in the environmental and geochemical disciplines at A&M-Corpus Christi. A total of 37 research projects, 12 COSE professors, 13 doctoral students, 18 master’s students and 25 undergraduate student researchers will benefit from the new piece of equipment.

The impacted faculty include:

  • Dr. Paul Zimba, Professor and Director of the Center for Coastal Studies
  • Dr. Jeremy Conkle, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
  • Dr. Michael Wetz, Associate Professor of Marine Biology
  • Dr. Brandi Reese, Assistant Professor of Microbial Ecology
  • Dr. Kirk Cammarata, Associate Professor of Biology
  • Dr. Patrick Larkin, Associate Professor of Chemistry
  • Dr. Jeffrey Turner, Assistant Professor of Marine Biology
  • Dr. Eugene Billiot, Associate Professor of Chemistry
  • Dr. Fereshteh Billiot, Associate Professor of Chemistry
  • Dr. Dorina Murgulet, Assistant Professor of Geology
  • Dr. Magesh Thiyagarajan, Director of the Plasma Engineering Research Lab and Associate Professor

“The most important thing to keep in mind when sending these types of proposals is that we need to show that we are different and we are capable of using the grant to its full potential,” said Abdulla. “The new instrument will provide the infrastructure for us to continue to build a collaborative research team that can tackle complex environmental issues.”

Since 2012, and including this award, A&M-Corpus Christi has received the second highest dollar amount in Texas from the MRI grant, more than $2 million from the MRI program.