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MU gets $65k research grant

Dec. 05, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Marshall University assistant professor Laura McCunn has secured a three-year, $65,000 grant to do petroleum research with the assistance of undergraduate students.

The funding for the chemistry teacher was awarded by the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund through a competitive process and will begin in 2013. McCunn and seven undergraduate students will study how several specific molecules decompose when they are heated in the absence of oxygen.

The results, she said, will help shed light on biofuels and the mechanisms for combustion of conventional fossil fuels like petroleum. She and the students are particularly interested in exploring the decomposition of aldehydes, which occur as byproducts in biofuels and can be emitted from biodiesel engines.

"Our results will contribute to be a model for the breakdown of fuels at high temperatures or for combustion of fuel mixtures that are not fully oxygenated," McCunn said. "It's significant in the petroleum field because this model could help predict the pollutants or soot that could be generated from particular fuel mixtures."

The grant program funding the project is aimed specifically at involving undergraduates in advanced research activities in preparation for graduate school or employment.

"Research is a really important part of the students' education," McCunn said. "They will learn things in my lab that can't be taught in a traditional classroom. The hands-on laboratory work teaches them problem-solving skills, perseverance and how to work independently."

She also said students will attend scientific meetings and present research.

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