Faculty at Large Lecture Explores Chemistry of Photo-Induced Degradation

Associate Professor of Chemistry Sarah Sobeck to speak on Oct. 6 at The College of Wooster

14 September, 2015 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Sarah Sobeck, associate professor of chemistry at The College of Wooster, will present “Seeing Red: A Chemist's Examination of the Fading of Carmine” at the first Faculty at Large Lecture of the fall semester on Tuesday, Oct. 6. The event, which is free and open to the public, begins at 11 a.m. in Lean Lecture Room of Wishart Hall (303 E. University St.).

Fundamental photochemical studies can provide significant insight into the aging of cultural artifacts and provide potential means to conserve items, according to Sobeck. “My lab is carrying out research to gain insight into the chemistry of the photo-induced degradation of cochineal (carmine), a red dye extracted from South American scale insects and used as an artist colorant,” she said. “Cochineal is known to be sensitive to light exposure and has been the subject of several conservation studies. We seek to understand the role of the paint media, water or oil, on the rate of fading and identify the chemical processes that lead to the fading. Additionally the impact of the ambient environment on the degradation is assessed. This is of interest because anoxic storage is one method used in conservation to preserve work, but it can be an expensive storage option.” The research being presented was the focus of Sobeck’s sabbatical during the 2014-15 academic year. A portion of that leave was spent at Yale University’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, where she worked in the laboratory of Paul Whitmore, director of the Aging Diagnostics Lab.

Sobeck, who joined the faculty at Wooster in 2006, is involved with a research group that studies the impact of solvent environment on the photochemistry of UV-absorbers and chromophores using a combination of experimental and computational methods. Her primary teaching duties are the physical and introductory chemistry courses, as well as advising students in their Senior Independent Study projects. She received her B.S. in chemistry and mathematics from Marquette University and completed her Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of Minnesota. She spent one year as a visiting assistant professor at Trinity University prior to her appointment at Wooster. 

The next Faculty at Large lecture will be Tuesday, Nov. 17, when John Lindner, professor of physics at Wooster, will present “Strange Nonchaotic Stars.” Additional information is available by phone (330-263-2576) or e-mail.