Ferrum College Receives Contract for Corrosion Research

Corrosion Research

Ferrum, Va. (Nov. 1, 2013) – Ferrum College proudly announces its receipt of a $238,000 research contract under the direction of Dr. Jason Powell, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Physics, and Dr. Michaela Gazdik, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology, from International Scientific Technologies, Inc. of Radford, VA. A Phase 2 SBIR contract was awarded by NASA to International Scientific Technologies as a result of collaboration with Dr. Powell on a six-month Phase 1 project last year. This new, two-year project will involve student researchers in both biological and chemical disciplines in the real-world application of corrosion control.

International Scientific Technologies, Inc. has partnered with Ferrum College to draw on the expertise of Ferrum faculty members and to provide opportunities for students to perform applied research. “This Phase 2 NASA SBIR award is a great opportunity for International Scientific to continue working with Dr. Powell and to begin a working relationship with Dr. Gazdik,” said Michael Harig, the project director. “The Ferrum College students who have worked with Dr. Powell so far have performed excellent work to assist in the development of new technologies.”

Dr. Powell’s research expertise in the surface chemistry of metal oxides initially attracted the interest of International Scientific Technologies, Inc. when he started at Ferrum College twelve years ago. Their partnership last year resulted in projects that allowed two Ferrum College students, Terry Hall and Kevin Reynolds, to present their research at a recent national meeting of the American Chemical Society. “It is wonderful to be able to involve students in meaningful research to benefit a local corporation and also to allow the students to present their work at technical conferences,” said Powell.

Dr. Gazdik will be joining the collaboration this year, bringing her expertise in microbiology to promote and monitor bacterial biofilm growth. “I am excited to join Dr. Powell and International Scientific Technologies as they begin Phase 2 of this project. It is a new line of research for me, and I am looking forward to the diverse, engaging, and innovative research opportunities this will provide for our students,” said Gazdik, who recently completed a project funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases studying Mycobacterium smegmatis as a model organism for tuberculosis. Her students have presented their work in a variety of settings and some have received research grants of their own to fund their continued work in her laboratory at Ferrum.

For this project, Dr. Gazdik and her students will monitor the growth and characterization of biofilms, while Dr. Powell and his students will perform various chemical treatments to the metallic surfaces. A key tool for the project is Ferrum’s new scanning electron microscope recently purchased as a part of improvements to the science building, Garber Hall.

Upon hearing of the award, Congressman Robert Hurt commented, “We believe that the engagement in dialogue between higher education institutions, the business community and governments in the Fifth Congressional District is an important strategy for the harnessing of innovations and expertise needed for the transformation of the region into a sustainable, knowledge-based economy.”

To that end, Congressman Robert Hurt elaborated, “Growing collaborations between our higher education assets and private sector research efforts in the Fifth Congressional District have always been a team effort. Ferrum College is a key member of that team. I am pleased Ferrum College continues to be a catalyst for bringing together public and private sector representatives to find ways to leverage themselves as a natural partner and resource for the emerging research and development efforts of International Scientific Technologies.”

Congressman Griffith stated, “Partnerships such as this one between Ferrum College and International Scientific Technologies further highlight our regional economic development efforts aimed at connecting innovation and research towards the further development and sustainability of small business throughout the ninth congressional district.”

He further stated, “We have long recognized that public private endeavors such as this are the foundation of future business and economic development in our region.  This partnership represents the tremendous opportunities for our higher education assets to partner with existing small businesses in an effort to create future products that will eventually lead to jobs in our region.”

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 In the photograph (left to right): Ferrum College senior student research technicians Grant Waldrop, of Easley, SC, and Kevin Reynolds, of Patrick Springs, VA, review samples with project coordinators Dr. Michaela Gazdik and Dr. Jason Powell in the molecular biology student/faculty research laboratory in Garber Hall.

About the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics: The School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Ferrum College offers 8 majors (Agricultural Sciences (including Agribusiness, Agronomy, Animal Science, and Horticulture emphasis areas), Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, Health Sciences, Mathematical Science, and Pre-Professional Science) and 7 minors (Agriculture, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Forensic Science, Horticulture, and Mathematics), each designed to prepare students for careers in a broad range of fields as well as graduate training in both professional and academic disciplines.

About Ferrum College: Ferrum College is a four-year, private, co-educational, liberal arts college related to the United Methodist Church. Ferrum offers a choice of nationally recognized bachelor's degree programs, at a cost well below the national average for private colleges. The College celebrates its centennial in 2013.