BGSU photochemistry research center in line for additional state funding

BGSU’s Center for Photochemical Sciences will receive additional funding through a new program to be launched July 1 by the Ohio Board of Regents (OBOR).

The state’s Economic Growth Challenge/Innovation Incentive Program is designed to shift resources toward doctoral programs that have the potential to create more jobs and opportunities for commercialization in high-tech areas of research and manufacturing.

An outgrowth of the Commission on Higher Education and the Economy’s recommendations about higher education’s role in stimulating Ohio’s economy, the program will complement funds received through the Third Frontier Initiative.
Beginning in July, all state research institutions, including BGSU, must reallocate 1.5 percent of their state funding for doctoral programs every year for 10 years to the identified doctoral programs. The state will then match those funds, using 15 percent of its roughly $160 million annual doctoral subsidy.

“The Innovation Incentive Program represents OBOR's effort to focus resources on areas of research strength in Ohio,” said Dr. Heinz Bulmahn, vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate College. “BGSU's response is to invest in photochemical sciences, our area of research strength that aligns with the Ohio Third Frontier Initiative.”

At the Center for Photochemical Sciences, researchers use the interaction of light and chemistry to address needs ranging from treating cancerous tumors to creating a quick-drying paint for battleships.

Maximizing potential
In 2004, the University began its own resource shift with its Research Enhancement Initiative. Through a competitive process, research clusters were identified for extra support based on whether they addressed research areas consistent with the governor’s Third Frontier Initiative and whether they showed strong potential to produce intellectual property that could stimulate economic growth. A third criterion was programs’ ability to attract additional external funding.

The photochemical sciences center, which comprises faculty from chemistry, biological sciences, and physics and astronomy, was chosen, and within it, the molecular photonics group.

In molecular photonics, a materials group focuses on creating new photo-generating materials for use in electro-optic devices such as liquid crystal displays and sensors for environmental toxins. A biology group studies computational chemistry and bioinformatics with the goal of developing bio-inspired devices applicable to medical practice.

To further strengthen the promising area, BGSU opted in 2003 to move one of its Ohio Eminent Scholar positions, which had been vacant for some time, from the applied philosophy department to photochemical sciences.

That came to fruition with the recent hiring of Dr. Peter Lu, a top scholar in physical chemistry, who was named an Ohio Eminent Scholar in photochemical sciences. He will join the faculty in August. Along with Lu, Dr. Massimo Olivucci of Siena, Italy, a renowned computational scientist, was hired and will begin this fall.

Lu and Olivucci, along with center faculty and doctoral students, will collaborate to advance understanding of biochemical processes related to proteins and their function in metabolism.

On the materials side, faculty have also garnered national and international attention for their research.

Dr. Pavel Anzenbacher last year received an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship. The highly competitive national award is designed to identify those who show the most promise of making fundamental contributions to the development of new knowledge in the sciences.

The focus of Anzenbacher’s research group is, in general, the development of advanced photonic materials in two main areas: supramolecular materials for sensor applications and materials that can be used in fabrication of flat displays. The researchers use the knowledge they generate for the preparation of optical sensors and synthesis of artificial dyes and pigments.

Another faculty member, Dr. Felix Castellano has been cited in the American Chemical Society’s Chemical and Engineering News as well as publications abroad for his discovery of how to “upconvert” green light to higher-energy blue light.

“This is probably the biggest scientific discovery to ever come out of Bowling Green and has many important implications for developing new technologies,” said Dr. Michael Ogawa, chair of the chemistry department. The U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research is funding the three-year, $300,000 study that has produced the finding, so potential applications are particularly relevant to the military.

With the addition of the new faculty members, the Center for Photochemical Sciences will have about 15 researchers. Over the past four years, the center’s faculty have attracted more than $9 million in outside funding.

June 19, 2006