JMU chemistry professor earns $100,000 research award

james madison university jmuPaul Raston, an assistant professor of chemistry at James Madison University, has been awarded a $100,000 Cottrell Scholar Award by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement.

Raston was one of 24 scholars across the country, and the only one in Virginia, to receive the award that is given annually to faculty identified as leaders in integrating science teaching and research.

“The cool thing about this award is that it is for both research and teaching,” Raston said. “It will allow for us to investigate the forces that drive atmospherically important reactions and enhance the active-learning environment in undergraduate chemistry labs.”

Raston said the research promises valuable insight into atmospheric chemistry at the molecular level, which could lead to better predictive capabilities of the chemistry that occurs in Earth’s atmosphere.

On the teaching side, Raston said the grant will be used to develop software interfaces to control instrumentation used in undergraduate laboratory courses. The software will reduce the learning curve associated with instrument-specific software and will include features that will enable students to efficiently, and more independently, collect and analyze experimental data within the lab period. The work will increase the amount of active learning in the lab, thus enhancing student engagement at a critical point in their education.

This is the second consecutive year a JMU chemistry professor has won the award. Ashleigh Baber, an assistant professor who researches and teaches materials chemistry, won the award in 2018.

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