Douglas Fox’s polymer research project recently got a little boost. This fall, the chemistry professor received a three-year grant, totaling more than $270,000, to explore ways that modified cellulose can be used as a flame retardant. Inorganic salts are currently the most commonly used flame retardant—but it is known to release toxic fumes into the atmosphere. Fox’s research seeks ways to adapt cellulose—an abundant organic polymer found in plants—for the same purpose. With manufacturers currently seeking “greener” products, “replacing inorganic salts with an environmentally benign alternative is a step in the right direction,” says Fox.
Awarded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the grant will fund two new positions for the project: a three-year postdoctoral research associate appointment and a yearly undergraduate summer research assistantship. Bringing a postdoctoral chemist into the AU fold has decided benefits. Says Fox, “It allows you to progress further as a department, and it gives students another master to learn from.”
Undergraduates working on the project will gain a national perspective on technology and research while learning how to work as a member of a scientific research team. The majority of the research will be conducted at NIST headquarters in Gaithersburg, Maryland— allowing summer research assistants the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art equipment while brushing shoulders with some of the nation’s premier scientists.
Student researchers will also gain valuable experience working in materials science, a burgeoning field that applies fundamental understanding of material composition to the engineering of new materials. What’s Happenin