Campus Life

Chemistry professor swings large donation for UWF

By Lauren Haggett, University Communications

A $35,000 scientific instrument donated to the University of West Florida will enable chemistry students to have hands-on experience as undergrads. Thanks to the chemistry department and the diligent efforts of Frederick Hileman, Ph.D., research associate, Visiting Assistant Professor in Chemistry and mass spectrometry expert at UWF, the department is now the new home to a liquid chromatograph/mass spectrometer (LC/MS). The new instrument is superb for analyzing highly polar compounds, a class of compounds that could not be readily analyzed before at the University.

“I look forward to using the LC/MS with my current undergrad research,” said Kyrsten Mckeand a junior majoring in Biochemistry. “It has an endless amount of applications and is a great addition to the department.”

Hileman saw the need for an LC/MS at UWF and approached the manufacturer, ThermoFisher Scientific, last year about donating one of their expensive instruments to the University. In January 2011, Hileman received the phone call he and the chemistry department had been waiting for. The manufacturer had taken a LC/MS on trade and was willing to donate the instrument to UWF.

The LC/MS arrived at UWF at the beginning of the year, and there was no time to waste getting everything set up.

“The students are standing in line waiting to be able to use the new instrument,” said Hileman. “We have the equipment in house right now and are running the necessary power and gas lines. It just so happens that the service man for this instrument lives in Pensacola and is a graduate of UWF. He is donating his time to install the LC/MS for us and to give us the initial training.”

The LC/MS will provide UWF students a new set of eyes for analysis that was not available to them before.

“Having this capability is invaluable for our students who will now be trained and experienced in using this type of instrumentation when they leave UWF,” said Hileman. “We will be using the LC/MS to study water samples from the Gulf of Mexico and analyze it for Corexit, the surfactant that was put in the gulf to disperse the oil after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in April 2010.”

The students will be conducting some of their undergraduate research on the recently acquired LC/MS under the guidance of Pam Vaughn, Ph.D., assistant professor at UWF.

“I am really excited about the new equipment and I am so glad that we have the opportunity to use this instrument at UWF,” said Janae Baptiste a sophomore Biochemistry student. “I think this will be a great opportunity to get acquainted with an instrument that will be of great assistance, particularly while conducting research.”

The UWF chemistry students will benefit greatly from having this machine available to them. Few institutions in the region have these capabilities, which will put our graduates a head above the rest.

“We have two more mass spectrometers coming from Solutia in Springfield Massachusetts as well. These are similar to what we already have, but adding these mass spectrometers will increase our capacity. I want to thank UWF for giving me the opportunity to enhance the instrumentation capabilities of both the Chemistry Department at the University and CEDB,” said Hileman.