$75,000 equipment grant enhances WBU’s partnership with Welch Foundation

PLAINVIEW – The Welch Foundation has awarded a $75,000 equipment grant for chemistry research to Wayland Baptist University’s Kenneth L. Maddox School of Mathematics and Sciences.

“This grant will enable our faculty to continue to work closely with our students to pioneer science research and enhance their educational experiences through hands-on learning,” said Dr. Cindy McClenagan, Vice President of Academic Affairs. “We are grateful for the Welch Foundation’s investment in our university and our shared commitment to advancing scientific knowledge and innovation.”

Dr. Robert Moore, Professor of Chemistry and author of the grant request, said the funding will assist the university in purchasing two instruments: a benchtop Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectrometer and a Multi-mode Microplate Detection System. Wayland has continuously received Welch Departmental Research Grant funding for 18 years. The equipment grant is in addition to an ongoing student research grant.

“An NMR spectrometer is useful for identifying organic compounds and a Multi-mode Microplate Detection System has a broad set of applications,” Moore said. “We hope to employ the NMR in a couple of projects.”

Those projects include the identification of compounds isolated from plants that bear cancer cell-killing capabilities and identification of organic compounds in soil samples in the university’s developing soil analysis lab.

“The microplate detection system will be used on the other end of the cancer research in monitoring cancer cell death and elucidating the biochemical mechanisms and pathways by which the compounds kill the cancer cells,” Moore explained.

Both instruments will also be able to support multiple classes in the school’s chemistry and molecular biology programs.

The NMR is also the last piece of equipment needed for the Kenneth L. Maddox School of Mathematics and Sciences to be in line with the required holdings of an American Chemical Society certified degree program.

“These two instruments should be able to immediately support research being carried out or planned by myself, Dr. Matthew Dyson, Dr. Adam Reinhart, and Dr. Matthew Allen,” Moore said. He noted Dyson assisted him in writing the portions of the grant request regarding the microplate detection system.

When the Welch Foundation announced a new program to fund equipment for chemistry research at small schools in Texas, Wayland’s Kenneth L. Maddox School of Mathematics and Sciences was among the first schools invited to apply. Moore said several components in Wayland’s application made it strong and highly competitive.

“It was clear the Welch Foundation was looking for evidence of other funding as they wanted the recipients to purchase something beyond $75,000,” Moore said. “That Wayland recently raised enough support to build the new laboratory sciences building worked in our favor. Even more so may have been the equipment grant from the James A. ‘Buddy’ Davidson Charitable Foundation that is being used to cover the expenses of these two instruments beyond the $75,000.”

Also contributing was the school’s track record of putting Welch Foundation funds to good use.

“Since 2005, we have had 63 undergraduate students participate in Welch-funded research, of which more than 90 percent of those who have graduated continued on into a science career, and nearly 75 percent have earned or are working toward an advanced degree,” the chemistry professor said.

A strong research culture in the Kenneth L. Maddox School of Mathematics and Sciences may have also contributed to Wayland receiving the grant.

“Nearly every faculty member has directed at least one undergraduate research student recently,” Moore said. “In the last four years, our students have won first place in 11 of the 16 sections we have presented in at the Texas Academy of Sciences Meeting. We’ve given 32 presentations at conferences by 20 students and won 17 awards by 13 students.”

The chemistry professor said Wayland has shown itself to be a firm supporter of the research efforts of the Kenneth L. Maddox School of Mathematics and Sciences.

“In addition to budgetary allocation to active faculty for research and travel, the university funds the WBU Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics and Sciences (CURMS), which provides research and travel money for projects that aren’t already supported by the Welch program,” Moore said.