New equipment, more space for PChem Lab

Lukasz Adamczyk and Nikhil Chintalpudi

Lukasz Adamczyk, right, and Nikhil Chintalpudi, seniors in biochemistry, create acetylene gas in the new physical chemistry lab. Photo: S.K. Vemmer/UIC News

UIC’s Science and Engineering Laboratories building is now home to what chemistry faculty call one of the finest undergraduate physical chemistry labs in the country.

The Edward G. Reitz Lab, named for a former UIC chemistry professor, moved from its cramped lab to a spacious area down the hall designed for physical chemistry.

The department will show off the new space at an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday in 2209 SEL.

Stocked with state-of-the-art equipment, including a $24,000 FITR instrument used to measure infrared radiation, the lab added three new variations in its experiments to the six previous ones to help unify lab and lecture curriculum.

“I did undergrad at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, I did graduate school at UC-Berkeley and post-doc at MIT, and this is the best physical chemistry lab in the country,” said Preston Snee, assistant professor of chemistry.

“Most schools are not going to let students touch a $30,000 machine — but we do.”

Before the move, the lab shared a space less than half the size of its new site with other classes and had trouble scheduling class for the growing number of chemistry and biochemistry students.

Now the 77 students required to take CHEM 343: Physical Chemistry Lab are scheduled throughout the day in four sections.

“They’re now saying this is the most rigorous course they’ve ever had,” said Audrey Hammerich, clinical assistant professor of chemistry.

The space is equipped with new computers, more storage and a teaching preparation area.

“I think there are many universities that do not provide as good an experience in this laboratory as we do,” said Luke Hanley, professor and head of chemistry.

“And we’ll be doing more of this in coming years.”