NSF Funds Green Chemistry Research – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

NSF Funds Green Chemistry Research

Professor of Chemistry Walter Bowyer was recently given a three-year National Science Foundation Grant as part of the Research in Undergraduate Institutions program. The nearly $200,000 grant will fund his “green” chemistry research, providing equipment, supplies, and a summer stipend for three students.

Using the funds from the grant, Bowyer will conduct research on indium mediated allylation, a reaction that deals with carbon-carbon bonds, which are essential in the production of manmade chemicals used for pharmaceuticals and plastics. 

Traditionally, to create these bonds, chemists use ether. However, ether is a highly flammable substance that is not only dangerous to work with, but is also harmful to the environment. The research is an exploration into green chemistry, something that Bowyer has been studying for the past 15 years, and uses substances such as water in place of ether.

“Through a rational approach, we are seeking to make the industrial process, which can create reactions very harmful to the environment, more green,” says Bowyer. “We’re trying to understand things at a molecular level, and hopefully reduce hazardous waste.”

The three-year grant will also help train undergraduates in advanced research – a level of laboratory work usually found at advanced institutes. “Having students work with me helps them get started with research early in their careers as scientists,” remarks Bowyer, who strives to get students involved in research after their first year. “It also gets young students excited about science; it gets them involved early in their decision making process. It’s amazing to see what students can achieve in just a few years.”

Bowyer was issued the grant due to the success of prior results, and his work is a continuation and elaboration of work done through an earlier grant. During the course of the research, Bowyer and his students will write papers, create oral presentations, and attend as many as three national conferences.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…” With an annual budget of nearly $7 billion, the National Science Foundation is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities.

In the photo above, Bowyer is in his lab with student researchers last summer.