The Cool Factor of Crystals
By Trisha Coder
Ask Drew Craddock '21 what he did during his summer vacation, and his response will likely surprise (and impress) you. The chemistry major spent the summer manipulating molecules in Whitworth's new crystallography center, the first of its kind in Spokane.
Craddock worked alongside Hugh W. Johnston Professor of Chemistry Kraig Wheeler, who spearheaded the quest to bring a single-crystal X-ray diffractometer to Whitworth.
The X-ray diffractometer can determine the molecular and atomic structure of a crystal, allowing scientists to identify matter like salt, quartz, insulin, penicillin and DNA. Chemists and other scientists are already using the equipment for drug delivery and to determine how viruses bind cells and cause infection. Such research may even one day yield a cure for the obstinate common cold.
Whitworth purchased its diffractometer through grants from the National Science Foundation and the Health Sciences and Services Authority of Spokane County. The crystallography center gives Whitworth chemistry students a significant advantage over their peers throughout the nation.
"This equipment is not typically available to undergraduates," Wheeler says. "It's an opportunity to explore areas they've never dreamt of."
The center also supports a unique partnership between Whitworth and Eastern Washington and Gonzaga universities. Instead of sending samples out to determine the particular structure of a crystal, students can now do that work right in the center.