Professor awarded $800,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation, Air Force
Bruce Branchini, the Hans and Ella McCollum ’21 Vahlteich Professor of Organic Chemistry, has been awarded two grants totaling $824,386 to continue cutting-edge research on bioluminescence, the emission of light by living organisms.
Branchini received $599,386 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through its Research at Undergraduate Institutions program, and $225,000 from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
These grants allow Branchini to continue a federally funded research project he began in 2007 with the goal of discovering, designing and demonstrating the potential for bioluminescent materials. Branchini develops these materials, which are both non-toxic and biodegradable, for a wide range of practical applications, from human health to aircraft landing zones.
Branchini’s research has also provided a unique opportunity for Connecticut College students. As director of the College’s Bioluminescence Research Group, Branchini has mentored and overseen the research activities of more than 100 undergraduate students. These students gain hands-on research experience using equipment and supplies funded by grants.
“Bruce is an outstanding researcher,” said Stanton Ching, the Margaret W. Kelly Professor of Chemistry and chair of the Chemistry Department. “This is obvious to anyone who knows his track record and is aware of the major contributions he has made to the understanding of firefly bioluminescence. These grants are indicative of his excellent research program — one that he has maintained throughout his career.”
A member of Connecticut College faculty since 1986, Branchini has been a leading expert on the biochemistry of bioluminescence for 36 years. In 2009, he received a research grant from the NSF for $582,899, one of several NSF grants he has been awarded to cover the expenses for student research stipends, international travel, major equipment acquisition and building renovations. In 2010, he received a $225,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR).
Branchini’s work also earned the College its first patent. In 2011, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued U.S. Patent No. 7,807,429 for an enhanced version of an Italian firefly's light emitting protein engineered by Branchini and his research team. The College was also issued a European patent based on the U.S. patent.
October 29, 2014