duPont Award Winners for Student-Faculty Research Named

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2004 Jessie Ball duPont Awards for Excellence in Student-Faculty Research

The 2003-2004 Jessie Ball duPont Awards for Excellence in Student-Faculty Research recipients are Professor of Geology Donald B. “Bran” Potter, Jr., Anthony J. Zucchero ‘04 of Chesterfield, Missouri and Grant Burrier ’05 of Stow, Ohio. All three have conducted research under the generous support of the duPont Student-Faculty Research Funds. The Jessie Ball duPont Fund for Student-Faculty Research was created to help stimulate the intellectual life of our campus and to encourage and reward meaningful student-faculty research collaborations. Each year the fund provides approximately $35,000 in support for student-initiated and student-faculty collaborative research. The Fund also provides the University the opportunity to reward outstanding contributions to these efforts with the Jessie Ball duPont award for Excellence in Student-Faculty Research.

In nominating Professor Potter, Robin Rotman, a senior from Lake Bluff, Ill. and Sewanee’s latest Rhodes Scholar, wrote, “I was fortunate to enroll in Dr. Potter’s Physical Geology course during the fall of my freshman year…it was a hard year for me; my parents had hoped that I’d attend a more well-known university…In January, I decided to apply to transfer to a college up north, and I asked Dr. Potter to write me a letter of recommendation. He did, but not before saying to me: “Robin, what will make you happy here? Don’t you see that here, every door is open to you? What do you want? Do you want to do research?…” For the moment, this possibility was enough to quench my restlessness. I decided to stay at Sewanee. Ultimately, I took up Dr. Potter’s offer… Our project was tiring and time-consuming, but he was always energetic and encouraging, even at 5:30 am. Dr. Potter was patient with me, never complaining that I was hiking too slowly or taking too much time from his very busy schedule. What could have been drudgery, he turned into fun, telling jokes and singing during the long drive home. Dr. Potter and I have always had a strong faculty-student relationship; during our duPont research, we became friends. Through our work at Stone Mountain, I learned about geology, but, more importantly, I learned what it means to be a geologist, to recognize a call to a vocation, and, in the end, how to be content with a place. For this I will be forever grateful.” In November, Potter and Rotman delivered the results of their research, “Westernmost Exposure of the Cumberland Overthrust at Short Mountain, TN” at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the Geologic Society of America in Seattle, WA.

Grant Burrier was nominated by Professor of Spanish Thomas Spaccarelli, Professor of Political Science Charles Brockett and Professor of History Harold Goldberg. Last summer Burrier traveled to Chiapas, Mexico under a Biehl grant to investigate the Zapatista movement. He spent his Christmas holiday in Venezuela researching the life, career, and political movement surrounding Hugo Chavez. During spring break, Burrier traveled to El Salvador to witness the presidential elections. His research and travels have resulted in several papers and a presentation. In nominating Burrier, Prof. Spaccarelli wrote, “In short, Grant Burrier is quickly becoming one of our country's experts on matters Latin Amercia--and I say that seriously. At his young age, and with his own hard work and initiative, he has become extremely well-versed in matters Latin Amercian…In thirty years of teaching at Sewanee I have known few students who could match him in hard work, discipline, and quality of scholarship.” Prof. Brockett concurred, “I think I am safe in saying that NEVER in 30 years of teaching have I had a student who has done more field research abroad -- and he still has another year to go! Furthermore, each of his projects has required great initiative on his part and independent effort.” In addition to his outstanding classroom performance, Burrier is captain of the cross-country team and a member of the Sewanee Climbing Club. Burrier’s relay team holds the school’s 4x800 meter record in track and field.

Anthony J. (A. J.) Zucchero was nominated for his work on the synthesis and characterization of a new class of metal-containing organogels. Organogels are jello-like materials composed of over 99% liquid and less than 1% of a gelator. The gelator forms nano-to mesoscopic networks that immobilize the liquid by surface tension. The project has involved both synthetic and analytical chemistry. Zucchero was nominated by Assistant Professors of Chemistry Robert Bachman and Deon Miles. Assistant Professor of Chemistry Robert Bachman wrote, “A. J. has simply excelled at both aspects of the project and made tremendous progress over the last year. He has successfully prepared a new artificial lipid and demonstrated its ability to gel a wide array of organic solvents. He has also prepared the first generation of metal complexes based on this lipid and begun to elucidate their gelation behavior. In the process of carrying out this work, A. J. has also made several unexpected discoveries that have real potential to impact the field. One notable example was the preparation of a gold-containing system that spontaneously formed gold-nanoparticles. This system has the potential to allow us to prepare a new form of "nanonetworks" by combining the chemistry we are seeing with the intrinsic properties of gel systems.” The quality of Zucchero’s work is seen in the number of oral and poster presentations he has made this year. In November he presented his work at both the Tennessee Academy of Science meeting and the Southeast Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society. At the former meeting he was awarded third prize for the Best Undergraduate Research Presentation. In March, he presented a poster at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, CA. At this meeting he not only presented his work in a normal technical session (typically reserved for graduate students) but also was selected to participate in SCIMIX, a poster session that brings together select contributions from all the technical divisions that are deemed of broader interest. In April, Zucchero and Bachman presented their work to Congress at the Council of Undergraduate Research's Poster Session on Capitol Hill. Zucchero has also worked on research on the mechanisms of stereochemical control in the macrolide ring synthesis of Erythromycin A with Prof. Richard Summers. Zucchero will graduate in May with a major in Chemistry and a minor in Anthropology. In the fall, Zucchero will attend graduate school at either Indiana University or Georgia Tech.

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