New College Dedicates New Nano-Materials Lab

January 9, 2012—An expanded Optical Spectroscopy and Nano-Materials Lab has been established at New College of Florida using funds provided by a $1.7 million, multi-year grant from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to conduct nanotechnology research at New College.  The grant, titled “Nanoparticles, Laser-Assisted Modification, Characterization and Properties,” was awarded in May 2009 for three years and is anticipated to have a two-year extension when the initial period expires in May 2012.  It is the largest federal grant in New College’s history.
The new Optical Spectroscopy and Nano-Materials Lab was dedicated on January 6, 2012. To the best of our knowledge, New College is the ONLY undergraduate liberal arts college in America to have this type of equipment.
The principal investigator for the research project is Professor of Physics Mariana Sendova, who has successfully solved scientific problems in different areas of applied physics, material science, nanotechnology, spectroscopy and biophysics.  Sendova has two patents and more than 50 publications in renowned and diverse peer reviewed journals.  She started the College’s first experimental physics research laboratory and has been successful in attracting outside funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Collaboration in Basic Science and Engineering (COBASE) and the Department of Education.
Nanoscience is the study of the properties of matter structures not larger than 100 nanometers in one of their dimensions – research that Sendova describes as “a billionth of a meter” scale.  Nanotechnology is the science behind today’s most advanced and compact electronics, with applications in the computer or robotic industry, in the medical field for diagnostics and targeted drug delivery, in raising the efficiency and speed of optical communication systems, and in the quest for new energy sources. Last year, the Nobel Prize in physics went to a researcher in the area of carbon nanotubes.
The new lab was created out of what had been a general physics research lab and adjacent computer lab at New College. In addition to the infrastructure, the Army grant funded several new pieces of equipment, including an acoustical and vibrational isolation chamber for an atomic force microscope; Photoluminescence Spectrometer Flurolog-3; Fourier Transform Infrared Micro-Spectrometer with ATR objective; Differential Scanning Calorimeter, and a high temperature furnace. Some of the equipment was donated from other sources.  All of the equipment relates to studying the fundamental properties of new materials using ultraviolet light.
Sendova believes that it is a rare opportunity for her students, who have been involved both as researchers and as co-authors on scientific papers in journals such as Material Science, Journal of Luminescence, Optical Materials and the Journal of Raman Spectrography. Every summer, two students have worked in the lab on the project, and several have attended major scientific conferences.
“Our students are doing graduate level work,” states Sendova. “The top research universities are thrilled to have New College graduates in their graduate school programs.” Sendova says the new lab and its state-of-the-art equipment is also a draw for prospective students. “The future materials scientists of the world are starting right here.”
Sendova frequently involves students in her national and international collaborations with leading research institutions in such countries as France, Germany, Bulgaria and South Africa.  The grant has also funded post-doctoral students. The most recent, José A. Jiménez, went on to a tenured position at the University of North Florida.
# # #
Founded in 1960, New College of Florida is a national leader in the arts and sciences. Consistently ranked among the top public liberal arts colleges in America by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and The Princeton Review, New College attracts highly motivated, academically talented students from some 40 states and nearly 25 foreign countries. A higher proportion of New College students receive Fulbright awards than graduates from virtually all other colleges and universities.