Summary Post

I have learned so much over the course of my summer research project! My project was based around learning a skill, rather than answering a research question, so I am not in a position to elaborate on any groundbreaking conclusions, unfortunately. I became as much of a crystallographer as I could have hoped. At first, it seemed like an impossible task to mount crystals, but after 8 weeks, I could mount and run 10 unit cells in a day. By the end of my research, I had helped my lab (as well as three others) find unit cells, solve structures, and produce crystallographic information files for important chemical compounds. Some we were familiar with, and others were entirely new to research literature. I worked on 21 structures, with 2/3 of them being from our own lab. I also spent a week of my research proofing .cif files with a website called There were about a dozen structures that needed to be proofed for any errors before being published, and I spent the majority of that week going through alert messages and doing my best to either fix them, or be able to explain why they cannot be fixed. It was a great deal of focus on a piece of the x-ray crystallographer’s tool kit that I would not have become adept at otherwise. The last portion of my research was a transition from being the student into being the teacher. I spent some of my time explaining (or attempting to explain) to a peer in my lab the techniques that are needed to use the x-ray diffractometer. I also tried to explain what to look for in SHELXLE to help solve disordered structures. This role reversal was part of a friendly trade because that peer took time away from his work to teach me about the pure chemistry that goes on in a lab. Crystallography requires chemistry knowledge, but wet chemistry is a whole different ball game!

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X-Ray Crystallographic Research

Knowledge of structure and form leads to understanding function of materials. Better understanding of function allows us to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of materials. My research question is, how can the internal structure of crystals be determined using x-ray diffraction? X-ray diffraction is the physical process of finding a 2D pattern of specific crystal structure with an x-ray diffractometer, and x-ray crystallography encompasses all the techniques needed to image the crystal and work back to calculate the 3D structure. This analytic technique could be applied to virtually all solid materials; here it will be focused on photoresponsive materials which have numerous applications in fluorescence-based environmental sensing, optical computing memory, LEDs, and photocatalysts. [Read more…]