Chemistry Majors' FURSCA Experience Includes Space Center Visit

Vanessa McCaffrey, Erica Bennett, Casey Waun, and Nicolle Zellner visited the Johnson Space Center this summer.Vanessa McCaffrey, Erica Bennett, Casey Waun, and Nicolle Zellner visited the Johnson Space Center this summer.A number of Albion College students remain on campus every summer to complete scholarly work funded by the Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity (FURSCA). The summer experiences of chemistry majors Erica Bennett, ’13, and Casey Waun, ’13 were enhanced when they joined professors Vanessa McCaffrey and Nicolle Zellner on a trip to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where they conducted experiments to investigate the role of impacts on simple organic molecules.

The research, funded by grants from NASA’s Astrobiology Institute and the American Astronomical Society, is to examine how organic molecules change in impact events. The Albion delegation and Johnson technicians worked together to use the center’s hypervelocity impact technology to “shock” a sample of sugars by firing a projectile at a metal target holding the sample. The pressure from the impact of a projectile hitting the target’s steel plug has the ability to change the sugar placed inside the target, which the scientists hope will provide insight to the origin of life.

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