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Young Faculty Scientists Receive Research Grants

Young Scientists
Grant recipients (l-r) John Yukich, Erland Stevens, Mark Smith, and (front) Susan Hendrickson

Four young scientists on the Davidson College faculty have received funding from three of the leading research institutes in the country for projects they will begin this summer. John Yukich, Mark Smith, Erland Stevens, and Susan Hendrickson are conducting projects in the fields of physics, psychology, and chemistry, using more than $100,000 of grants specifically designed to encourage professors at the beginning of their careers.

Yukich, assistant professor of physics, received funding from the Research Corporation for his proposal "Photodetachment dynamics in electric and magnetic fields." In his study, Yukich hopes to develop a better understanding of the basic structure of negative ions by studying their behavior in electric and magnetic fields. "This is fundamental research," he explained. "We are not trying to obtain a new technology, product, or method. We are trying to acquire a basic understanding of nature. The research will be a test of basic theories of atomic physics." Philip Stewart, a rising senior physics major from Atlantic Beach, N.C., is assisting Yukich with the project this summer.
John Yukich & Philip Stewart
Rising senior Philip Stewart works with John Yukich

Established in 1912, the Research Corporation supports research in physics, chemistry, and astronomy at U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities. The foundation makes between 200 and 300 awards annually totaling $5 to $7 million under programs that encourage beginning faculty members, original ideas, and the involvement of students in scientific investigation.

Mark Smith, assistant professor of psychology, was awarded a Behavioral Science Track Award for Rapid Transition (B-START) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Smith's project, entitled "Age-Related Differences in Opioid Sensitivity," expands on research he conducted as a graduate student. It investigates how age affects the level of sensitivity to opioid drugs such as codeine or morphine, which are generally employed as pain relievers. The highly competitive B-START grant is a peer reviewed one-year award designed to allow researchers to begin compiling preliminary data for long term projects. Established in 1974, NIDA is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the principal biomedical and behavioral research agency in the United States.

Erland Stevens and Susan Hendrickson, who are both assistant professors in the chemistry department, received Type G starter grants from the American Chemical Society-Petroleum Research Fund (ACS-PRF), which are intended to assist young faculty members initiate modest programs of self-conducted research.

A synthetic organic chemist, Stevens will study "The Synthesis and Study of Heterarylboronic Acids and Esters in the Suzuki Cross-Coupling Reaction." In Stevens' words, the project involves "figuring out how to make bigger, more complicated molecules through the 'Suzuki' reaction, which helps put molecules together."

Hendrickson, who is undertaking her first research project since joining the faculty last year, will investigate changes in the conductivity of the electronically conducting polymer, polythiophene. "The focus of this research," said Hendrickson, "is to try to prepare a material that will be sensitive and selective for lead ions in aqueous solution."

Assisting her on the project this summer is chemistry major Eric Salo, a rising senior from Atlanta.

Since the first ACS-PRF grants were approved in 1954, several grant programs have evolved to serve segments of the scientific community. PRF funding commitments in 1999 totaled $17.0 million. Type G grants are intended for new faculty within the first three years of a regular (usually a tenure-track) academic appointment and without extensive postdoctoral research experience.

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by "U.S. News and World Report" magazine.

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