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Melton, Cole receive $19K HEPC grant to purchase fluid extraction system

ISSUED: 2 December 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Two Shepherd University professors received a $19,370 grant from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission Science and Research Instrumentation Grant Program to purchase a new nontoxic piece of equipment that will be used in classes and for research.

Dr. Cecilia Melton, assistant professor of environmental studies, and Dr. Jacquelyn Cole, associate professor of chemistry, are using the grant to purchase a supercritical fluid extraction system that uses nontoxic CO2, as opposed to liquid solvents, and a milling instrument for uniform grinding of extractable tissues.

“Currently, we perform extraction using traditional solvents, which can leave toxic residues,” Melton said. “Supercritical fluid extraction is the process of separating one component from another using supercritical fluids, most commonly CO2, for the extraction as opposed to the liquid solvents used in traditional extraction methods. Separation of the carbon dioxide from the extract is simple and nearly instantaneous. Also, yield is improved using this extraction system.”

Melton said the new equipment will be integrated into curriculum for hands-on educational opportunities and data obtained with it will be part of project-based components in class projects.

“Furthermore, students will gain fluency in the supercritical fluid extraction system, which is now common in industry for extraction of things such as fragrances, food additives, decaffeination of teas and coffee, and pharmaceutical compounds,” she said. “This will increase students’ competitiveness for STEM careers.”

Melton and Cole are working with two undergraduate students on phase one of a study on organic herbicides for the management of invasive species plants, which involves extracting chemicals from walnuts. Cole also plans to use the equipment on an essential oils characterization project, and other faculty members have expressed interested in using the equipment.

Cole said the new equipment has potential to be used in upper-level courses like Analytical Chemistry and Biochemistry, as well as in lab courses that Shepherd has not been able to offer until now.

“I am incredibly excited to receive grants to purchase new equipment for our students,” Cole said. “One of the greatest things about Shepherd is our students get hands-on experience with instruments. At major universities, instrumentation is often off-limits to students out of worry that they may damage it. But at Shepherd, our students get individualized training on equipment and so we feel confident that they can use it safely and go into their future careers with that knowledge.”

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