UNCP wins National Science Foundation research grant


UNC Pembroke's Department of Chemistry and Physics is breaking new ground in undergraduate research.

UNCP was notified in early January that it won a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to conduct research on chemical and radiation sensors, said project leader Dr. Paul Flowers. It is a three-year grant, worth an estimated $150,000.

"These grants are from the NSF's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program," Dr. Flowers said. "Most of these grants go to large institutions and a handful of elite liberal arts universities. UNCP is a non-traditional site for them."

The grant will support the research of three UNCP professors - Dr. Flowers, a chemist, Dr. Tom Dooling, a physicist, and biochemist Dr. Siva Manjiny - and six undergraduate assistants, three from UNCP and three from community colleges in the region.

"Our grant proposal offered a very unique feature of having experienced Ph.D. scientists working one-on-one with students on a daily basis," Dr. Flowers said. "We are going to work very hard to make this a productive three years that may result in continued funding for many years to come."

Dr. Flowers just completed work on a three-year individual NSF grant. In 15 years at UNCP, one of his missions has been to promote undergraduate research, said Dr. Jose D'Arruda, long-time chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics.

"Paul is UNCP's top research scientist," said Dr. D'Arruda. "I am very proud of this development for our department and the University."

The UNCP professors will conduct fundamental research on sensor development in three areas:

  • preparation and evaluation of membranes for extraction and isolation of target substances;
  • development of spectroscopic and electrochemical sensor transduction schemes; and
  • design and characterization of novel radiation sensors.

Successful implementation of this program may yield results that contribute to fundamental knowledge in various fields of study relevant to chemical and radiation sensing. Some of the applications may be useful to Homeland Security.

A unique feature of the project is a follow-up online course that will prepare students for presenting their research at conferences.

Lynda Parlett, interim Director of Sponsored Research and Programs at UNCP, worked with Dr. Flowers on the grant.

"This is big, really big, for the University, our students and faculty," Parlett said. "With this grant we become an NSF research university. It's a door opening for us."

UNCP lobbied for the grant in Washington, and the University chipped in research funds, Dr. Flowers said.

"I take my hat off to the Provost (Dr. Roger Brown) and the Chancellor (Dr. Allen C. Meadors)," Dr. Flowers said. "Without their support, this would not have happened."

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Roger Brown praised Dr. Flowers and the Office of Sponsored Research for winning this prestigious grant.

"Every scientist in America knows that the National Science Foundation is the most difficult research funding agency to impress," Dr. Brown said. "The fact that Dr. Flowers successfully competed with much larger and wealthier colleges and universities is more evidence of the growing realization that UNC Pembroke has high quality academic research to go along with its reputation for outstanding teaching and student satisfaction. I want to warmly congratulate Paul Flowers and thank him for his leadership."