Collaboration between Fayetteville State University (FSU), UNC Pembroke and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Army Research resulted in $1.5 million funding this fall for an advanced electron probe microanalyzer to further student and faculty research along with commercial and military applications.
The microanalyzer will allow scientists and their students to unlock the secrets of the planet and the universe, said FSU’s Dr. Steven Singletary and UNCP’s Dr. Lee Phillips. Dr. Singletary initiated the process that resulted in funding from Congress’ 2008 defense budget.
North Carolina’s U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and Rep. Bob Etheridge guided the legislation through the Congressional budget process. UNC General Administration’s (GA) Office of Federal Relations and its Washington, D.C., office provided guidance and support for the project.
“We are incredibly excited about this project,” Dr. Phillips said. “The microanalyzer will make my research so much easier.”
Students will benefit too, Dr. Singletary said.
“In order to do the kinds of research I want to do, I had to leave this region,” said Dr. Singletary. “This gives students the resources to do advanced research right here.”
A 1996 UNCP graduate from nearby Tar Heel, N.C., Dr. Singletary received a master’s degree from Texas Christian University, a doctorate from M.I.T. and did post-doctoral work at the University of Arizona.
The microanalyzer will be located at FSU and will be accessible electronically to UNCP and other chemists, biologists, geologists and forensic scientists to study inorganic and some organic materials.
Top administrators at FSU and UNCP Chancellor Allen C. Meadors and Provost Dr. Charles Harrington were closely involved in the process that included personal visits to Washington, D.C.
“The Chancellor and I are deeply committed to this project,” Dr. Harrington said. “The grant represents research opportunities for both our faculty and students, and continued opportunities for applied economic and workforce development.
“We felt it important to work closely with our federal legislators in an attempt to move this project forward and obtain the funding necessary,” he continued. “It was definitely a team effort. This funding from the Department of Defense is a testament to the potential for our contribution to research in these areas.”
Dr. Singletary’s research focuses on the heavens, while Dr. Phillips keeps his feet on the ground.
“I analyze meteorites,” Dr. Singletary. “I want to see how planets were assembled; I want to find out how the rocks got here.”
Dr. Phillips, also an eastern North Carolina native, is interested in the coast and how it evolved.
“The microanalyzer will help me better understand the relationship between changes in sea levels and the precipitation of carbonate cements, or binding agents, in transitional marine deposits,” Dr. Phillips said. “This is the best machine possible for this type of work.
“The microanalyzer has micro-imaging capability that allows scientists to collect data with an extraordinary degree of precision,” he continued. “What we can do is limited only by our imagination.”
The equipment is expected to be operating by next fall.
Dr. Linda Little, UNCP’s director for Sponsored Research and Programs and federal relations officer, said the federal funding was the result of an extraordinary collaboration.
“This was a team effort on a multi-institutional project,” Little said.
The team included Emily Dickens, FSU’s director of community and government affairs, David Camps, director of Sponsored Research and Programs at FSU, Miles Lackey, director of UNC’s federal government relations and Kimrey Rhinehardt, UNC’s vice president for federal relations.
“Our congressional delegation and UNC-GA were instrumental, as was our sponsor at the Office of Army Research,” Little said.
Faculty members at UNCP and FSU also assisted with the grant application.