May 28, 2010
WOOSTER, Ohio - Rachel Bennett, a recent College of Wooster graduate and a resident of Tulsa, Okla., has been named an Ernest B. Yeager award winner by the Cleveland Chapter of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy (SAS) and the Analytical Topics Group of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
The award recognizes Bennett's achievements in independent research, particularly in spectroscopy (the identification of chemical compounds), for which she will receive a certificate, a monetary award, and a year's membership in SAS. The award will be presented later this month at the annual Conference on Spectroscopy and Analytical Chemistry at John Carroll University, where Bennett will give a presentation on her research.
"I am very honored that Dr. (Paul) Edmiston (associate professor of chemistry at Wooster) even considered nominating me, and thrilled to have won the award," said Bennett, who also received the American Institute of Chemists Senior Award and was named to the Dean's List. "I think it is a great way of sharing the work of the Wooster chemistry department with the greater scientific community, and I am excited to be a part of that."
Bennett's Senior Independent Study (I.S.) project (Wooster nationally acclaimed undergraduate research experience), for which she received honors, was titled, "Development of a Sensor for Gas-Phase Triacetone Triperoxide Using Waveguide Interferometry." Her work involved the development of an explosives detector specifically for triacetone triperoxide (TATP), which is a liquid explosive commonly found in improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including the one assembled by the shoe bomber. Bennett used a laser set-up and a planar fiber optic material, the waveguide (like a fiber optic cable, but just on a flat piece of glass), to measure how the optical properties of a polymer film changed as it was exposed to TATP.She then measured those changes, or responses, for the application to an explosives sensor that could be applied to airport security, military
operations, and other potential targets.
"My I.S. experience has taught me so much," said Bennett, who presented her research at the annual American Chemical Society meeting in March and also served as a lab assistant for general chemistry and was a member of the chemistry club while at Wooster. "It really developed my skills as an independent researcher, which I'm sure will be invaluable as I begin graduate school. All of my classes gave me a good foundation to help with my work, and I.S. was very helpful in teaching me what kinds of questions to ask in order to make progress with my research. I feel very prepared for the next step in my career and cannot thank my mentors enough, especially Dr. Edmiston, for helping
get to this point and guiding me through the whole process."
Edmiston, who will continue to work with Bennett on the TATP sensor project this summer, offered high praise for his prized pupil. "The Yeager Award is very prestigious," he said. "Rachel's work in developing spectroscopic sensors for liquid-based explosives is timely and needed, given the use of these agents in terrorist activities. These liquid-based explosives prevent the public from bringing liquids onto airplanes. We hope the success of this project will add a new tool to the detection of these explosives."
Bennett, who will attend Georgia Institute of Technology and pursue a doctoral degree in chemistry this fall, joins an impressive list of Wooster students who have won the award during the past 50 years, including Stacey Dean in 2005 and Colleen Burkett in 2006.
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