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Bruin Notes

R. Carlisle Chambers

National Science Foundation Grants

Chemistry and engineering research projects awarded $230,000

Chemistry professor R. Carlisle Chambers (right) sounds a little like someone in police work when he describes his newest project, a dream for the last 10 years.

Beginning next semester, his students, and as many as 120 students total, will be using new equipment in their detective work — seeking “fingerprints” in their chemistry laboratory assignments. Not human fingerprints, Chambers explains, but characteristics of liquid or solid compounds, each of which has its own “fingerprint” or graph pattern when subjected to testing.

Testing will be possible through a new $300,000 nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer being funded through a $150,000 National Science Foundation grant awarded to the university in July. The university, through budget and off campus support, will provide the other half. The new equipment is expected to be in place by February.

Chambers calls it “the most important piece (of equipment) in modern chemistry; it’s the centerpiece of all laboratory instruments.” George Fox students will not be the only ones to benefit from the grant and equipment. The NSF award is based on a proposal for the equipment to be available for students at both Corban College in Salem and Warner Pacific College in Portland. Access will be available over the Internet, or directly.

Compared to a super conducting magnet, and closely resembling an MRI machine, the spectrometer identifies the constituents in a sample, using magnetic field response and detection. The “nuclear” name does not imply “reaction” and changing atoms, but, rather, detecting atomic structure.

Organic chemistry students will be the primary users. They will be able to determine if they have made a new compound, as intended, or what has been made; they see a graph on a screen/monitor. Students will have hands-on access — preparing for, running, and interpreting the tests, Chambers says.

National Science Foundation Logo

“This gives us the most modern instrumentation at the undergraduate level, competitive with any institution,” Chambers says. “Our students will be better prepared as chemists or for grad school; we will do a better job of teaching.”

An $80,000 engineering research grant to the university from the National Science Foundation has impetus from an unusual source: best-selling Christian author Richard Foster.

A 1964 George Fox graduate, Foster is the founder of Renovare, based in Englewood, Colo. When Foster launched his organization’s website, he asked George Fox to be the host. That fact was noted on the website.

Gary Spivey

That’s how Gary Spivey, assistant professor of engineering, first heard of the Newberg-based university. At the time, he was considering a career change from his work at an engineering research firm in Arizona. Enthralled by Foster’s Celebration of Discipline book, Spivey had decided to seek more about Foster. As he searched for more information about Foster, he came across the George Fox connection, went to the university’s website, and discovered it had a teaching opening — just the one he was looking for. “If that [website tie] was not there, I would not be here,” Spivey says.

On campus since 2003, Spivey in August was awarded the NSF grant for “Collaborative Research: CSSR—EHS: Foundations for Design and Implementation of Software Radio Platforms.” The grant to the university is part of a total $525,000 NSF award that combines Spivey’s research with that of principal researchers at the University of Maryland and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The grant covers salaries, student summer research, travel, and equipment.

The award allows Spivey to go back to a professional interest while he teaches, and it will benefit students in one of his senior-level engineering classes. The research involving software technology and digital system design will “filter to them,” he says, giving students broader outlook on research and academic connections with others.

Research will involve software defined/software radio. A radio in this case is defined as any device that intentionally transmits or receives signals in the radio frequency, such as traditional AM and FM radios, but also cell phones, cordless phones, garage and car door openers, shortwave, satellite pagers, etc. They typically receive in analog format and convert to digital. It’s the “translation” and “conversion” process that is being studied — turning hardware problems into software problems, says one researcher. The idea is building radios using software, getting software as close to the antenna as feasible, trying to get rid of analog components. Depending on the need, universal communication devices could be reconfigured as needed — a cordless phone one minute, a cell phone the next, a wireless Internet gadget the next.

Spivey says the goal of his research is to “formalize and automate designs in software.” This will allow new systems to be deployed with less engineering time, therefore with less money.

The broad impact: “Software radio promises substantial benefits to real-world systems by making them more flexible, interoperable, and easily upgradeable. Interoperability and upgradeability are particularly important to first (emergency) responders, who need to quickly establish communications with a diverse and predictable set of agencies in a very short amount of time.”

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