Anonymous Donor’s Gift Drives $1 Million Science Equipment Excellence Fund

February 4, 2015
Chemistry faculty and staff, including lab supervisor Gary Bonomo, far left, agree the new equipment fosters a more research-intensive environment.

Chemistry faculty and staff, including lab supervisor Gary Bonomo, far left, agree the new equipment fosters a more research-intensive environment.

Students and faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences are benefiting from a new Science Equipment Excellence Fund (SEEF) that is modernizing the college’s science-teaching instrumentation and enhancing the overall learning experience of students.

Established last fall by an anonymous donor, and cultivated by Dean Karin Ruhlandt, the fund has continued to generate interest and financial support from several members of the University’s Board of Trustees, with a number of donations coming in recent months.

Today, the fund has received nearly $1 million in donations.

“The Science Equipment Excellence Fund reflects my commitment to building an unrivaled liberal arts college at Syracuse University,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “To afford our students a distinctive, broad and deep education means equipping them with the right tools and experiences.”

Ruhlandt says the fund helps promote scientific literacy, which is central to a liberal arts education, regardless of one’s major or career path. A distinguished professor of chemistry, Ruhlandt has been a passionate advocate for the fund, which is benefiting the departments of biology, chemistry, Earth sciences and physics and the Forensics Institute of National Security Sciences. Among the new equipment already purchased through the fund are spectrometers, centrifuges, dry ovens, a differential scanning calorimeter, microscopes, stereomicroscopes, digital cameras, incubator shakers, motion detectors and magnetic field sensors.

Chemistry professor Tara Kahan with one of the department's new spectrometers.

Chemistry professor Tara Kahan with one of the department’s new spectrometers.

“Students of all academic backgrounds will be able to work with the same equipment found in private industry. The opportunity for collaboration between various disciplines and between students and professors is virtually unprecedented,” Ruhlandt says.

Chemistry is the first academic unit to take advantage of the SEEF, having purchased and installed more than $200,000 of instrumentation. Under the supervision of professors Tara Kahan and Mathew Maye, the department has integrated the equipment into existing and newly prepared lab experiments, with positive results.

“Already, undergraduates have gotten lots of hands-on time with the equipment,” says Kahan, an assistant professor specializing in physical chemistry, spectroscopy and environmental and atmospheric chemistry. “Using research-grade instruments makes it easier for students to see how their studies may pay off in the future, in academia or industry or both.”

Kahan says the fund has “completely transformed” Syracuse’s physical and analytical chemistry courses, which are taken by undergraduates in both Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering and Computer Science, as part of their core curriculum requirements.

Chancellor Syverud and Dean Ruhlandt are working to secure additional gifts for the SEEF in the months ahead.