Raymond Dessy, professor emeritus of chemistry at Virginia Tech, has received a Senior Scientist Mentor Award from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

The award will provide funding over the next two to three years to allow Dessy to hire and train undergraduate students in a research project dealing with plasmons in plants.

“Many emeritus faculty no longer teach courses nor take on graduate students. Their wealth of experience and knowledge, however, makes them a unique and valuable educational resource for undergraduates,” said Mark Cardillo, executive director of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

Dessy won a similar award from the foundation in 2002, after developing a passion for working with undergraduates the decade prior. 

“The undergraduates today, when they are good, they are better than my generation. They’ve had exposures that I never had or didn’t have until I was 35. I envy that. It means you can explore things with them that wasn’t possible before,” Dessy said.

Beyond the top undergraduates, however, Dessy also enjoys working with students who may need additional mentoring to improve their knowledge, skills, and confidence. “I began to realize that undergraduates were a resource that could explore science in unique ways,” Dessy said. “They offer a new flexibility. Together, we can explore modest projects that may or may not prove the starting hypothesis.  I don’t need another publication. I don’t need tenure because I’ve had it. If the starting hypothesis isn’t proven, but the student matures in the process, then that’s a very welcome outcome for us both.”

The current award will allow Dessy to hire a handful of undergraduates who will work on a project over the course of one to three years. He is seeking second or third year undergraduates who are interested in studying plasmonics in plants, looking at metallic nanoparticles that are synthesized by the plants themselves. Students, ideally, will have coursework in biology, biochemistry, physics, chemistry, aqua-culture, or other related areas.

“I design projects that are broad. When a student works for about a month, one can sense where their strengths are. We can then redirect their research to meet those interests. And I can explore their other problems and see if we can help with any weaknesses” Dessy said.

Student who would like to learn more about the project can contact Dessy via email.

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