Crystals contain vast amounts of information. The structure alone tells a chemist almost everything about the compound. how it interacts with others, the number of total electrons, etc.
X-ray crystallography is a technique used to analyze and understand the structure of crystals, and Keene State College is one of the pioneers in this field. Dr. Jerry P. Jasinski has been a chemistry professor and researcher at KSC for 40 years, making contributions to over 700 publications around the world.
In 1990, Dr. Jasinski applied for a grant to receive an X-ray diffractometer which was approved that same year. A diffractometer is the heart of X-ray crystallography, which aims X-rays at the crystal to determine how and where X-rays are diffracted.
The diffractometer was upgraded back in 2012 with a new, state of the art machine, something uncommon for undergraduate schools such as KSC. “Probably only a handful of undergraduate schools in the United States have such an instrument,” Dr. Jasinski said.
The word “crystal” typically generates images of quartz or amethyst in our minds, yet many types of substances can be crystallized, including complex compounds, like proteins, found in our bodies. One industry heavily reliant on X-ray crystallography is the pharmaceutical industry.
“Without a doubt, organic chemistry research uses X-ray diffractometry all the time,” Associate Professor Dr. Brian Anderson of KSC’s chemistry department said. “It’s the single best way to determine what structure you have. Every pharmaceutical company in the world uses X-ray diffractometry.”
A college with a powerful and uncommon instrument such as an X-ray diffractometer gets many requests from researchers and scientists to analyze their samples. Handfuls of samples per week from around the world are sent to Keene State College so Dr. Jasinski and other researchers can analyze their samples in the diffractometer.
One researcher, who works with Dr. Jasinski and on her own research, is Dr. Manpreet Kaur. Dr. Kaur’s background differs from most professors at Keene, and has lived in various parts of India throughout her life.
“My father was in the profession where you kind of move every 4 years,” Dr. Kaur said. “We kept moving between different states in southern India.”
Dr. Kaur has three majors, which are physics, chemistry and math, all completed within three years of university. This is not unusual for university students in India.
Dr. Kaur is here on a work visa and performs her own research using X-ray crystallography. Her work involves analyzing samples that are sent to KSC, while her personal research focuses on creating variations of the anti-alzheimer drug Galantamine.
In exchange for the use of KSC’s diffractometer, Dr. Jasinski’s compensation is for him and those involved to be featured in the researcher’s publication.
KSC does not charge for the analyzation of crystals, but uses Dr. Jasinski’s innovative method which has earned his name in hundreds of publications.
This gives faculty and students a rare opportunity to be featured in publications, something uncommon for undergraduate schools.
Many students and doctors working with Dr. Jasinski have earned their name in a variety of publications with his help. A diffractometer is incredibly precise. So far, it is the most accurate technique used for understanding the structure and properties of a compound.
“You can always doubt the characterization of a compound from other techniques,” Dr. Kaur said, “but once you have a crystal, that’s it. You can’t question it.” Many are unaware of KSC diffractometer, which could be a selling point for chemistry students looking for research opportunities in college.
As the evolution of science and technology progresses, diffractometers are only expected to become faster and more efficient. “Even in the last five years”, Dr. Jasinski said, “everything is changing.”
Garrett McNamee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org