Research Magazine

Auburn Research
Spring/Summer 2022
Impactful Instrumentation

In the College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM), researchers are using state-of-the-art equipment to make an impact and further the land-grant mission of Auburn University.

Researchers conduct research and analyze samples on an array of instrumentation from a gas chromatograph to a world-class X-ray diffraction device to an ultrafast laser lab.

The college houses instrumentation on campus that is considered the best in the state of Alabama and even equipment that is the best in the entire Southeastern United States.

Dr. Ann Ojeda, an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences, received a $110,081 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a gas chromatograph and thermal combustion oven coupled with an isotope ratio mass spectrometer.

Ojeda researches how toxic organic contaminants are transported and degraded in soil and water systems.

“Our university now has the ability to analyze carbon and hydrogen signatures of organic compounds on this spectrometer instead of sending them to external facilities,” Ojeda said.

The device is the first at Auburn University and one of a small number in the entire South.

Drs. Byron Farnum and Ryan Comes collaborate on research using the best X-ray diffraction equipment in the entire state of Alabama. The Rigaku SmartLab X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) was funded with a $280,487 Major Research Instrumentation program from the NSF with cost sharing of $120,000.

Farnum, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (DCB), and Comes, the Thomas and Jean Walter Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics, are fueling their research for next-generation materials for electronic and energy applications at Auburn.

“No other instrument in the entire state of Alabama has such finely tuned resolution designed for materials research,” Farnum said.

The instrumentation can scatter X-rays off atoms in a crystal, providing detailed measurements of atomic structure with impressive rapid-data acquisition.

“This instrumentation will help COSAM and Auburn University make a tremendous impact through next-generation materials while training future scientists and engineers in this interdisciplinary research field,” Comes said.

DCB used funding through the university’s Mission Enhancement Fund for two liquid chromatography mass spectrometers that will allow researchers to confidently determine the chemical formula of the compounds in their samples.

“We have departments in COSAM as well as other colleges within the university that request analysis,” said Dr. Melissa Boersma, director of chemical laboratories in the DCB. “We also analyze samples for other universities and companies who do not have this type of instrumentation.”

“It is an exciting time to be at Auburn University, and I am looking forward to making significant contributions to this global research.“

– Dr. Wencan Jintraining

Dr. Wencan Jin, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics, focuses his research with a $523,000 award from the NSF Electronic and Photonic Materials program to conduct 2D magnetic materials research.

The instrumentation is a rotational anisotropy second harmonic generation (RA-SHG) system in his ultrafast laser lab. Jin is part of the new quantum research cluster at the university.

“It is an exciting time to be at Auburn University, and I am looking forward to making significant contributions to this global research,” Jin said.

Each month in 2022, COSAM will be featuring a different piece of impactful instrumentation. Learn more about the equipment in the college by visiting or search the hashtag, #ImpactfulInstrumentation, on social media.

Last updated: June 02, 2022