Local News

May 21, 2014

Science defiance

DSC shows off new chemistry labs

— Dalton State College’s new science building is, perhaps, a lot like scientific research itself.

“You spend a lot of time waiting,” said Victoria Roy, a biology student at the college. “Then, suddenly, you get results.”

Randall Griffus, dean of the School of Science, Technology and Mathematics, relates, in a way. He said he thought it would take a long time before the new building was erected, a time filled with state meetings and long-drawn discussions on the practicality of such a building.

Then, suddenly, there were results.

Griffus spoke during a dedication of the John Willis Mashburn Chemistry Labs inside the Shelby and Willena Peeples Hall on Wednesday morning. The chemistry and biology labs, inside the new 58,000-square-foot hall, officially opened for summer classes this week.

“Five years ago I would not dare dream that we would have this,” Griffus said. “And now I really don’t want to dream anymore because I’m afraid my dreams would actually limit where we can be five years from now.”

Mashburn, a local philanthropist and businessman, was a longtime financial support of the college. After his death, the John Willis Mashburn Charitable Trust was created to continue to help support the college. To date, the foundation has given Dalton State roughly $5 million for scholarships and to grow programs including athletics.

Most of the lab instruments were paid through the Mashburn trust, while some were purchased with state funds and donated by Shaw Industries, college officials said.

The labs feature an array of equipment Griffus said gives Dalton State an edge, including a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, a Fourier transform infrared spectrometer and a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer.

For many people, those long terms might make them dizzy. But for chemistry student Poonam Kalaria it’s a chance to get her “hands dirty.”

She will be helping Tricia Scott, assistant professor of chemistry, in research focused on better synthesizing raloxifene, a drug used to prevent brittle bones in women who have gone through menopause.

“We’re trying to synthesize a faster way to create this drug,” Kalaria said. “Organic research is a lot of trial and error ... it takes years and years of drug research to put anything out there. To get to play with it as an organic chemistry student, I am very, very excited.”

So is Roy, who says she wants to focus on researching holistic and natural practices in medicine.

“You spend a lot of time inoculating and a lot of time watching things grow, but I love being in the lab,” Roy said. “I love every minute of it, even the tedious things. I could be in a lab all day and be happy. When you walk in and you see something happening — I get so jazzed.”

Griffus said students like Kalaria and Roy will flock to Dalton State due to its affordability and access to the labs hard to find in other places.

“Institutions that are larger than us do not have this kind of equipment and among those who do, unlike us, undergraduate students don’t use it that much,” he said. “I see no limits on what our students can accomplish.”

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