Voorhees receives NSF funding to expand arsenic research

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Voorhees receives NSF funding to expand arsenic research

September 20, 2016

Recently, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Voorhees College with approximately $40,000 as a supplemental funding to continue and expand faculty research on arsenic.

The HBCU-Undergraduate Program Research Initiation Award Project provides support from the NSF to junior and mid-career faculty from HBCUs who are building new research programs or redirecting and rebuilding existing research programs. It is expected that the award will help further a faculty member's research capability and effectiveness.

The funding will enable the newly established environmental science program at Voorhees to improve the principal investigator’s capability to examine volatile environmental pollutants such as pesticides and disinfection by-products by using the advanced gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) technique.

“I seek to develop an analytical methodology for the analysis of various arsenic species in the natural aqueous environment, particularly those with high sulfide levels,” said Dr. Jianye Zhang, principal investigator of the HBCU-UP Research Initiation Award Project. “This opportunity will aide in taking my student’s research experiences to a whole new level.”

Currently, the project has two student research assistants, Denzel Bolden and Akeena Harper. They enjoy the hands-on experiences they gain from assisting Dr. Zhang in the lab. They work to identify the different elements of arsenic, a grayish-white element that can form poisonous compounds.

The team’s objective is to study all the arsenic forms and be able to know what and where the harmful versions of the element are. The funding has allowed them to dig deep into exploration and experimentation using a variety of equipment. 

 “This program is helping me to get comfortable working in the lab.  I am gaining more skills and experiences to better prepare for my future career as a pharmacist, said Bolden.” 

Harper, who wants to become a pediatrician, said, “This program is providing me with valuable knowledge and experience that will help me as I work to achieve my career goal.  I am learning how to do procedures correctly and getting comfortable when taking the necessary steps in conducting research.

The students at Voorhees, who are supported by this project, have submitted research abstracts to and attended several national conferences, such as American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting, Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in STEM, and American Society for Mass Spectrometry (ASMS) Conference.

A private, coeducational institution, Voorhees College is affiliated with the Episcopal Church and the United Negro College Fund. From its founding in 1897, Voorhees has evolved into a leading four-year liberal arts college. Voorhees College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award the baccalaureate degree.

For more information, contact Megan Freeman, director of communications, at 803-780-1191 or at mfreeman@voorhees.edu.