November 10, 2011
Paul Bonvallet has received a $65,000 research grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund.
WOOSTER, Ohio — Paul Bonvallet, associate professor of chemistry at The College of Wooster, has received a three-year $65,000 research grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (ACS-PRF) for a project involving a molecular container that can encapsulate and release smaller molecules by opening and closing in response to light.
“PRF is interested in this research because of its potential application in the uptake, storage, and release of nitrogen-containing impurities in petroleum products,” said Bonvallet. “I call our molecule a ‘catch and release’ container because it resembles a hinged basket that can swing open or shut. Groundwater remediation may also be a potential application, but that is a long way off. Right now it is very much about the pure science and proof-of-principle in using light for this type of control.”
Bonvallet’s grant is the result of hard work and persistence. “I've been trying to get this research idea funded for the past eight years,” he said. “It required me to do the first part of the research with my Independent Study students for many years — and then getting the preliminary work published — to demonstrate its viability. Our initial work on the project was very slow and complicated, and I almost pulled the plug on the whole idea, but thanks to some excellent work by my students, it really took off after a few years of hard work.”
The success rate of securing these types of grants is historically low, according to Bonvallet. “It’s particularly tough to get a grant in the current economic climate,” he said. “In 2010, only 13 PRF awards of this type were made nationally to faculty from institutions like Wooster. Nevertheless, because the grant is designed for undergraduate institutions, most of the budget goes toward hiring several students each summer (for the three-year duration of the grant) to explore our ideas.”
A member of Wooster’s faculty since 2004, Bonvallet’s research interests include supramolecular chemistry, photochemistry, and polymers. He earned his B.A., Phi Beta Kappa, from Kenyon College (1996) and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin (2001). While at Wisconsin, he was a Samuel McElvain Graduate Fellow and a College of Letters and Science Teaching Fellow. In addition, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA and the California NanoSystems Institute from 2002-2004. His articles have been published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Journal of Organic Chemistry, and Angewandte Chemie.
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