$500,000 Keck Grant to Fund State-of-the-Art Experimental Lab

$500,000 Keck Grant to Fund State-of-the-Art Experimental Lab
These faculty members conduct extensive research in a unique lab that brings together chemists, physicists, engineers and computer scientists: (Clockwise from left) Hector Mireles, Dennis Livesay, Winny Dong, Chuck Millner, Phyllis Nelson and Samir Anz.
Senior electrical engineering majors Stuart Yamamoto and Jonathan Kamrava study the effects of an argon ion laser with associate professor Phyllis Nelson.

With a $500,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, Cal Poly Pomona will be creating a state-of-the-art experimental facility in its Center for Macromolecular Modeling and Material Design (CM3D) that will complement its existing computational facility. The new experimental laboratory will provide the equipment necessary for modern experimental science, which has become increasingly interdisciplinary and complex.

“The W.M. Keck Foundation grant will enable our science and engineering students to work in one of the most powerful computational centers housed at any undergraduate institution in the country,” says Donald Straney, dean of the College of Science. “It places us at the forefront of computational science and undergraduate universities nationally.”

“This support will let us build on our growing strength in nanotechnology,” adds Edward Hohmann, dean of the College of Engineering.

CM3D brings students and faculty from chemistry, physics, engineering and computer science into one research center. Both CM3D facilities will be used for undergraduate curriculum development and exceptional opportunities for hands-on research, which is usually reserved for graduate-level researchers and faculty.

CM3D professors believe the new experimental lab will enrich learning opportunities for students, as the center's computer lab has done for students studying computational research. The new lab instruments will enable CM3D faculty to modernize existing courses, develop new courses, and provide undergraduate students with interdisciplinary, capstone research projects. Students will gain experience in working with state-of-the-art equipment that is used in disciplines from medicine to space exploration.

“This is a very exciting time,” says Chemistry professor Samir Anz. “The computer lab has had such a significant impact on our students already; we're looking forward to adding this second component to CM3D.”

CM3D was created in 2001 by Anz and two other chemistry professors, who pooled their start-up funds to create the center. The CM3D professors initially networked dozens of personal computers to create a mini-supercomputer. With the help of this computer lab, ten undergraduate students have had their research published in academic journals.  

“None of those papers would have been possible without the computer lab,” says Chemistry associate professor Dennis Livesay, a founding CM3D faculty.

The W.M. Keck Foundation grant will expand CM3D's computational facility to produce a 128-node cluster. It will create an experimental lab that centralizes equipment from different disciplines. These equipment groups include:  (1) an imaging lab with an atomic force microscope that has the ability to image biological systems, a profilometer and an elipsometer; (2) a laser and spectroscopy lab for biological and solid state electro-optical and magnetic systems; and (3) a plasma generation and teaching lab.

“We will be able to locate much of the major equipment necessary for modern materials characterization in one facility,” says Phyllis Nelson, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “Before, we had to look all over campus for the right equipment. Coupling this new experimental lab with the computational lab will enable our students to experience the intersecting of simulation and measurement that is occurring in today's interdisciplinary research and development.”