This year, ChemMatCARS conducted its first annual Faculty and Student Team Research Award at ChemMatCARS (FaSTRAC).  This program creates research collaborations between ChemMatCARS and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Alaska Native-Serving Institutions and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions (ANNHSIs) and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs).  Every year, ChemMatCARS will sponsor a faculty scholar selected for this program and facilitate their research for a continuous four-week period.  The scholar is encouraged to invite an undergraduate or graduate student to this research experience, as long as their funding comes from their respective MSI.

This year’s applications were submitted in January and the program took place from June 27 to July 25.  Our 2016 recipient is Dr. Jamiu A. Odutola, a physical chemistry professor from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (AAMU) of Huntsville, Alabama.   His research group at AAMU studies the synthesis and characterization of Lanthanide-doped alkali-alkaline earth halide series crystal structures as likely materials for scintillators.  Dr. Odutola’s graduate student, Samuel Uba, accompanied him periodically during the program.  Their proposal entitled, “Study of europium-doped lithium strontium iodide crystal scintillators” was used as the foundation of their research at ChemMatCARS. 

Dr. Jamiu Odutola (left), Dr. Yu-Sheng Chen (center), and Samuel Uba (right)

Dr. Odutola presenting to ChemMatCARS beamline staff his undergraduate research projects

While on-site at the lab, Odutola’s group had the chance to conduct research alongside other users that were scheduled for shifts at Sector 15 beamline.  Their shifts were consistent with the normal Owl, Day, and Evening 8-hour cycles.  With the help of Yu-Sheng Chen, the Odutola group was able to analyze the crystals that they produced at AAMU prior to their visit.  This was Dr. Odutola’s first hands-on research experience with using x-ray synchrotron equipment to evaluate crystals.

Dr. Odutola appreciated the research experiences at ChemMatCARS.  He writes:

“I came to meet Dr. Yu-Sheng Chen, who turned out to be a patient and a dedicated advisor. I could not have asked for a better teacher for the synchrotron x-rays, who could work with me at my pace. This was my first hands-on experience with x-ray synchrotron for the analysis of crystals.

The running of the Beam-line is all effectiveness and efficiency. It is a 24-hour, daily, three-shift operation with the familiar terminologies (Owl, Day and Evening) for three months. Each beam-line shift is eight hours with shift -1 starting at 12.00 mid-night. There is no time to waste when you are scheduled for a beam-time as there are many beam-line users from all over the country. I witnessed several research groups from Texas, Colorado, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, and of course from the nearby Midwestern and the northern eastern states (like, Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, DC, Massachusetts etc.) doing cutting-edge experiments. Some have just one shift while few others two or more shifts. I was grateful for the opportunity to interact with most of them.

I would like to acknowledge the incredible opportunity of being considered to work under the supports from the Division of Chemistry (CHE), the Division of Materials Research (DMR), the National Science Foundation NSF (grant number NSF/CHE-1346572). Furthermore, the ChemMatCARS center had put together several packages before my arrival of which were most helpful and they made arrangements for my stay at the lodge-house located at facility a comfortable walk to Sector 15 lab.

I would like to acknowledge the hospitality and warm reception by the entire ChemMatCARS personnel namely: Dr. Binhua Lin (Senior Scientist and Deputy Director of the Center), Dr. Yu-Sheng Chen (my host, the lead contact on Advanced Crystallography experiments and the Safety Coordinator), Ms. Kimberly Simms (Sector 15 User Coordinator), Dr. Mati Meron, Dr. Wei Bu, Charlie Smith (IT), and the wonderful graduate students (Pei Yu Quan, Daniel Amoanu, Zhu Liang, Cem Erol to mention a few) and other postdoctoral fellows”.

The Odutola group also learned about other techniques practiced at 15-ID beamline, such as liquid surface scattering.  Dr. Odutola stated, “I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Mark Schlossman (a Physics professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago).  He is a regular beam-line user. He shared with me his research on liquid surfaces and interfaces using x-ray synchrotron scattering and how the set-up for his work is rather challenging. The take away for me from my discussion with him was the behavior of liquid mixtures at interface, for I once had few students who did senior chemistry projects on phase diagrams of ternary liquid mixtures. Through our discussion, I am beginning to think how his research may be extended to our chemistry applications”.  

FaSTRAC was established to engage with MSIs as well as to further educate our scholars beyond the knowledge they came to APS with.  It is rewarding to see that Dr. Odutola and Sam were able to increase their knowledge of crystallography with their summer experience here at ChemMatCARS.  According to Dr. Odutola concludes that, “My summer at Argonne was indeed a rewarding experience. I teach physical chemistry and in one of my course textbooks is a chapter on crystallography and symmetry groups. My 2016 summer exposure has proved transformative for my future teaching. I am taking with me several ideas as I go back to AAMU, which offers numerous expansions for our academic program. I plan to put together and apply my ideas, particularly those that may benefit our students, departments and college. What I have derived from the ChemMatCARS, I plan to share with my colleagues and present to AAMU. In addition, I plan to reach out to the Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) in our state and, possibly, the neighboring states. I will champion the course of forming a consortium to begin with and, hopefully, that will grow into a center”.

Dr. Odutola working with Dr. Chen on data measurement and structure solution of lithium strontium iodide materials.

Dr. Stephen Babalola (AAMU, left), Dr. Chen (center) and Dr. Odutola (right) at the 15ID-B hutch at ChemMatCARS