Resources for Graduate Research

Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Pranamita Chakraborti provides insight on instruments available at UNC Charlotte.

As graduate students at UNC Charlotte, we have access to several instruments on campus that we use for our research. This proves to be extremely helpful especially for us in STEM fields.

A very common practice in research is to ship samples away to other universities and institutions to get them analyzed. With such easy access to so many instruments, this is considerably reduced for us. As a student in the Ph.D. in Nanoscale Science program, I’ll list some of my top favorites:

  1. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR): We have easy access to multiple NMR instruments within the chemistry department that range from 60MHz to 500MHz. This is a very important tool which helps us understand the detailed molecular structure of compounds by looking into the Hydrogen or Carbon atoms present.

  2. Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Time-of-Flight (MALDI-TOF): Located in the chemistry department, this is a mass spectrometry technique that comes in very handy to us. For example, when we synthesize a new molecule and know what it’s mass should ideally be, we can go and check if that’s what the reading says.

  3. Integrated Confocal Raman, Enhanced Darkfield and Hyperspectral Imaging Microscope: The chemistry department hosts this sophisticated instrument which can be used for non-destructive and live imaging and chemical/molecular characterization of known or unknown compounds in a variety of ways. 

  4. Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM): While these are are located in the physics department and mechanical engineering department, they are still extremely useful to the chemistry department students, especially to those of us who are involved in nanoscale research. These are different microscopic instruments employing different techniques that help us in the physical characterization of our samples by looking into their morphology and distribution in different ways.

We have a lot of other instruments that are available to us, some of which are for common use, while others are specific to some labs. For example, the lab where I work has its own fluorometers because we synthesize a lot of fluorescent molecules.

We all get trained in the instruments we want to use. For most of them, we have unlimited 24/7 free access. This makes conducting our research and getting quick results very easy for us. I am grateful that instrumental access is something we don’t have to worry about in my program.

Article Written by Pranamita Chakraborti

Pranamita serves as a Graduate Admissions Ambassador for the Ph.D. in Nanoscale Science program.

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