Summer project for research in biofuel enrichment wins grant

Dr. Lisa Crow, Oklahoma EPSSCoR ROA grant winner.

Genie Funk
Academic Grants Office
Southern Nazarene University (SNU) and Oklahoma State University (OSU) are collaborating to investigate the possibility of using sunlight as a way of enriching the energy content of biofuel.

The groundbreaking research, conducted by Dr. Lisa Crow of SNU, and Dr. Jimmie Weaver of OSU, will take place this summer at OSU’s Chemistry Department in Stillwater. Funding for this project was obtained through an Oklahoma EPSCoR ROA grant with the National Science Foundation.

Though this grant is specifically for summer research, both Dr. Crow and Dr. Weaver envision the project as having far-reaching effects. Ideally, this summer will produce preliminary results that will lead to a full-blown project eligible for a federal grant. The project also will offer invaluable ongoing research opportunities for SNU undergraduates.

According to Dr. Weaver, the primary goal for this summer is to develop a method for the conversion of acrylate esters into cyclobutanes. The question at the heart of this research is whether the professors can develop a chemical reaction that stores photochemical energy similar to like that of conversion of carbon dioxide into sugars in plants.  Developing sustainable energy solutions is likely to be one of the greatest challenges of the new century, and the marriage of photoenergy harvesting and bioenergy has not yet been investigated.

Dr. Crow states that photocatalysis is an emerging field in chemistry and she is excited to be learning about it in Dr. Weaver’s lab this summer.
Both professors feel that the partnership between the two universities is natural and beneficial. The Chemistry Department at OSU wants to strengthen its ties with undergraduate institutions around the state, and as an alumnus from SNU, Dr. Weaver feels it is a natural progression for the two universities to form this type of working relationship. He and Dr. Crow have similar backgrounds in organic chemistry, which makes this project is an important step in this process. More importantly, the collaboration between SNU and OSU optimizes resources and expertise to enable this type of project to proceed.

Dr. Lisa Crow is chair of the Department of Chemistry and Assistant Professor at SNU. Dr. Jimmie Weaver is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at OSU. The two decided to pursue the research after Dr. Weaver introduced the concept of developing a synergistic research connection with his lab at Oklahoma State because of their similar backgrounds in organic chemistry. The two became acquainted while Dr. Weaver was an undergraduate researcher at SNU during Dr. Crow’s graduate school years at OU over a decade ago.

The Oklahoma EPSCoR ROA grant is provided by the National Science Foundation to promote and fund opportunities for faculty at one of Oklahoma’s comprehensive research campuses to conduct competitive research during the summer months. Those campuses include Oklahoma State University, University of Oklahoma, and Tulsa University.