(October 4 , 2001, Gazette)

Magnetic attraction to Utah

Louise Nicole Dawe

Photo by Chris Hammond

Louise Nicole Dawe

For fourth-year chemistry student Louise Nicole Dawe, the chance to work on inorganic magneto chemistry research at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City was highly attractive. Ms. Dawe was the only international student selected to participate in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program.

“The program takes place in 36 different states and is funded by the National Science Foundation, so they normally do not take international students,” said Ms. Dawe. “But fortunately for me the University of Utah was interested in recruiting an international student.”

The REU program gives students the opportunity to experience first-hand how basic research is carried out. The program is established in all fields of science, mathematics, and engineering. Each student is assigned to a specific research project, where they work closely with the faculty, post-docs, and graduate students. In addition, seminars, lunch meetings, and social functions are organized to facilitate interaction between the undergraduates.

Ms. Dawe found out about the unique program after returning to MUN after Christmas vacation.

“There was an application for an undergrad summer research program hosted by the University of Utah,” she said. “It came via Dr. Laurie Thompson in our Chemistry Department and I ended up working in the lab of one of Dr. Thompson’s research associates, Dr. Miller, who is a world leader in molecular magnetism.”

Ms. Dawe spent 10 weeks working on a project looking at synthesizing various organic ligands. Ligands are organic molecules coordinated to a central atom or molecule in a complex that have electron donor pockets. Her group was attempting to bind ligands to transition metals to make complexes that would have multiple metal centres and would exhibit magnetic properties.

“My goal to was to make these magnetic compounds and get crystals of them to identify their structure, and then to examine their magnetic properties.”

For Ms. Dawe, her time in the U.S. was not only an opportunity to further her academic interests but also to get a taste of life south of the border.

“It was my first time any further west than Toronto. We were housed in the new Olympic village and I made great friends who I am staying in touch with via e-mail. They certainly did a great job swaying many of us to consider going to the University of Utah,” she said. “It gave me a look at what it would be like to do my grad work at another school, how research is conducted at a different lab. It was a wonderful experience to work in another lab: practical hands on experience.”