Dr. Ron Warnet- Bringing Nanoscience To Simpson

More than four decades ago, Ron Warnet began teaching chemistry at Simpson College. Forty years later, there is still no place he would rather be.

“When I am in my classroom, the world is right,” said Warnet.

Over the years, Warnet’s enthusiasm for teaching and learning has not paled, and he remains committed to expanding scientific study at Simpson.

In January, Warnet and Frank Curti, assistant professor of physics, received a grant that will open a whole new field of science to Simpson students.

The grant, from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, provided Simpson with the funds to purchase an atomic force microscope. The microscope, which arrived on campus in late May, will be used extensively during Warnet’s course on nanoscience — a first at Simpson.

The microscope will allow Simpson students to view biological, physical and chemical samples at the atomic level, which is not possible with an optical microscope. With the equipment, students and faculty members can conduct experiments on individual molecules, creating many new research opportunities.

For example, Warnet is interested in studying the proteins that cause Alzheimer’s disease and said the new equipment will allow him to watch the proteins move and assemble over time.

“Undergraduates often don’t have a chance to play around with [atomic force microscopes], but here they will,” said Warnet.

Nanoscience is still relatively new to Warnet himself. Warnet has always liked to use his sabbaticals to learn about unfamiliar areas of chemistry. During his sabbatical in the fall of 2007, Warnet studied at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. and Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia, to learn the principles of nanoscience and gain experience with the equipment needed to teach it in his classroom.

“This isn’t in my field at all,” he said. “I’m an organic chemist, but it’s a fascinating topic. I think this is a great example of how sabbaticals benefit the college.”

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